Ohiofarmgirl's Adventures in The Good Land is largely a fish out of water tale about how I eventually found my footing on a small farm in an Amish town. We are a mostly organic, somewhat self sufficient, sustainable farm in Ohio. There's action and adventure and I'll always tell you the truth about farming.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Back to planting potatoes

Before all of this adorableness - and snow - happened I was planting potatoes...

Sprouted spud.

We had plenty of spuds left over from last year. The taters I couldn't get canned or frozen just happily sat in a bucket taking up space. Then they started to sprout.

Potatoes growing in a bucket.

You know how potatoes you get from the store just get mushy and weird if you don't use them? This is what happened to farm fresh potatoes. From last fall. They never got mushy or weird. They grew. In a bucket without any water or soil.  Isn't that amazing?

My potato planting method is extremely simple and can be found here. But I'll shorthand it for you - till up the spot for your potato patch - but don't put a lot of effort into it. Dig a small trench, throw potato parts on the ground, cover with dirt, then heavily mulch with clean straw. Then it's just a matter of sitting back and waiting - and keeping the chickens out of the straw.

Straw them in deeply.

I know that planting potatoes sounds like it should be more complicated but it's not. I found this method in a great gardening book by Barbara Doyen called The Farmer's Wife Guide To Growing A Great Garden. This little book provides all kinds of terrific, common sense information in an easy and fun little book. She also provides farm-style recipes. It's just terrific. 

Anyway, I pile all the branches from trimming the fruit trees on top of the straw to keep the chickens from digging up the potatoes. Or whatever I can find. Once the plants take hold they will be fine. While they are growing I just keep piling on the clean straw to keep the weeds down and to keep the potatoes from being exposed to sunlight.

The best thing about this method is that you get potatoes... and fabulously improved, weed free soil when they are ready. When you dig up the potatoes you are basically tilling the soil - and then you can plant a fall crop of beans. Talk about a win! Tilled, weed free, clean soil and then the nitrogen gets "fixed" from the beans. Next year you are ready for tomatoes. Easy peasy.

Two things that worked really well last year were.... first, canning potatoes. I'm telling you this is the best thing going. No more of that senseless peeling - they are all ready to go in a jar. So easy. Next, freezing blanched potatoes in serving sized freezer bags. Now THIS is easy. Both make excellent fried potatoes. But I think I prefer the frozen ones for mashed potatoes. 

Look! They were really growing!

Today I'm hoping to get a few more rows of potatoes planted. I keep finding buckets of potatoes - all of them are sprouting... and none of them are weird and mushy.

Happy Friday everyone! Do you have your potatoes planted?

Editor's note:  Check it out - this is an affiliate link. Anything you buy from Amazon from these links gets me a tiny percentage of the sale. It doesn't cost you one cent more but it helps me with the "cost" of this blog. If you like this blog, or if I've helped you at all in your farming efforts, just make a purchase from Amazon from one of the links, my store, or the black Amazon search box on the right side of this page. Thanks!

Planting potatoes

Note: I have no idea why this republished today... it was from a couple years ago and I updated it this morning with a link to the book.... hum..... oh well.. Carry on...

Planting potatoes is as easy as throwing them on the ground. I'm telling you I learned the easiest, sure fire way to get a good harvest of taters from Barb Doyen's spectacular book, The Farmer's Wife Guide To Growing A Great Garden I'm sure there's lots of other ways, but lets face it. I have bad soil so I needed a way to grow stuff and improve the soil at the same time. This tater method does both. Here's how.

It's as easy as throwing taters on the ground.

Step 1: Pick your worst growing spot and give it a little bit of a rototill. My tiller creates two little, side by side dug out rows which makes the next step even easier.

Step 2: Get your seed taters and cut them so that each piece has a bit of a sprout, or an eye. I usually do this as I'm going along.

Step 3: Throw the cut pieces on the ground. Aim for your little rows. If you'd like, take your hoe and cover them a bit. But don't spend a lot of time on this - just enough to anchor them.

Step 4: Mulch deeply with fresh straw.

Tater Row - ready for action!

That's it. I'm not even kidding. As the summer goes along I add more fresh straw to make sure the taters are completely covered and just the grow-y end is sticking up.

I know. It sounds like there is no way it could work but it sure does. Really! For whatever reason the taters kind of dig themselves down into the ground. So when they are ready all you have to do is grab a pitch fork and its like the world's best Easter egg hunt (with digging). Not only will have you have spectacular friable soil, but you've killed the weeds, and when you are done digging - you've tilled up a place for next season. So get your barn litter and mulch again and voila! You're ready to plant in the spring.

And wow do you get great results! Remember all the taters we had last year? We also really loved how well canning potatoes worked. I know it sounds stupid, but wow its easy and fun to get all the prep work done so you can have a quick supper any time. We are going for tons of taters this year.

I planted two batches. The first was the long row of taters featured above. I created this row just below the Pasture Mix in the front of the property outside of the fence. I'm not particularily worried about varmints, but I want to fence that area anyway. So any malfeasance will just give me a reason to hurry up and get it done.

This first batch was from the taters we kept by from last year. They are a mix of Yukon Gold (best variety ever) and Red Pontiac. They had a ton of sprouts on them and very little rotten ones. I had two half-full five gallon buckets. They are planted really close in this row.

The second batch are all Yukon Gold - a 5 pound bag from the feed store. The taters were lovely but really they looked like they should just be peeled and cooked. They only have a few sprouts each - which I didn't feel was a great value considering the price. I planted these on the north east corner of the upper garden along the fenceline by the cow peas.

Cow peas - who knows what they are but I like cows and I like peas so I think we're good.

In other news - Wednesday was hot. Like summer hot. Like - I have the 'air conditioning' on hot. What's with that? Fortunately the creepy meats all seemed to have lived but I was nervous there for a while. Pigz are doing well. I think they realized that I'm "She who brings the yums." Great. Not I'll have to spend all summer convincing them that I'm not their mommy and I don't love them. Sheesh!

Happy Thursday everyone!

Editor's note:  Check it out - I have an Amazon store for my blog. Anything you buy from Amazon from these links gets me a tiny percentage of the sale. It doesn't cost you one cent more but it helps me with the "cost" of this blog. If you like this blog, or if I've helped you at all in your farming efforts, just make a purchase from Amazon from one of the links, my store, or the black Amazon search box on the right side of this page. Thanks!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Nibbles had her babies!

Yeah, so remember yesterday I said that there was no way Nibs would have her babies that day? She's always trying to make a liar out of me. Check out these little cuties!

These could be the best litter yet. This little splashy gal arrived first. Just LOOK at her coloring! For no good reason we are calling her, Snickerdoodle.

Totable little goat! Totes adorbs.

This is the first time Nibs has had all long-eared babies. We were pretty surprised. The baby daddy is a flashy show buck - entirely Nigerian. We normally only have one long eared baby but this was a surprise. Goats with ears? Who knew!?!

Then this big girl arrived - she as a big bundle. In honor of that crazy bloodmoon/eclipse we had the other night we are calling her Moonpie. She has one partial moonspot on her side. Her main buff color is a new one for us. Isn't she a dream?

Moon mark on Moonpie

Nibbles is fine and is actually taking care of them so she gets an A+. I'm afraid it won't last, tho, so we are keeping an eye on them. But for now they are adorable and very funny.

And would you look at those ears!

The star of the day, tho, was my Dog#1. After all the hullabaloo of the babies arrival I let the dogs smell my hands. Kai and Zander thought they smelled delicious but my #1 was immediately on the job. A little later I asked him, "Where's the babies?" and he trotted right over to where Nibbles and the babies were - and he was eager to start guarding them. So he'll be helping me when we transition the babies to bottles. Good dog!

In the meantime the air is filled with the tiny little squeaky toy noises of little baby goats!

Happy Thursday everyone! Would you just look at these little cutie pies!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

This has to be the end of winter. Last snow. It has to be.

Last Sunday when it was sunny and 80* and I just could not make myself believe that it was going to snow again. It did. This is my official record keeping note that yesterday's snow was the last. Stick a fork in it, this winter has to be done. It snowed really hard yesterday morning.

 Sunday was glorious.

But we are just getting some blooms!  My orchard friends are not expecting peaches this year. "Maybe a few."  He said. But nothing like the basket busting crop last year. They tell me that they get a really good crop every 2 or 3 years. Drat.

And then this happened...

The pears seem to be doing OK but we haven't seen any other blossoms yet. By this time last year we had apple and peach blossoms - and we had a lost hard frost also, on the 21st. This morning it was 21* when I took the dogs out.

I know that city folks and our friends in more temperate regions are probably tired of hearing about all this weather. But it's really been a looloo. I can't get anything planted yet and can only do so much work outside. This, of course, pushes back any harvest. So it's all very frustrating.

But keeping these notes makes it easier for future planning.  I like being able to see where our progress is in relation to previous years. And it helps me figure out what I should be working on next. 

In other news.... Nibbles should be ready to have her babies soon. Probably not today but soon. Maybe tomorrow? I checked this morning and she looks irritated but not ready to burst. One thing that I'm glad about is that we waited so late to breed the goats. This cold winter has made a difficult kidding season for many folks.

Today we'll have more sunshine and blue sky. And hopefully we will get to our normal temperature soon.

Happy Wednesday everyone!

Monday, April 14, 2014

All our beez died....

So, all our beez died. They didn't make it thru this long and difficult winter. We think that they did OK up until the last polar vortex got us. It had been warm one day then bitterly cold the next - we think that is what did them in. It's very sad.

Back when we had beez and were happy.

We talked to a lady in town who said she knew some folks who moved their hives into their basement on the coldest nites. To tell you the truth I would have never thought of that. I can't imagine that would go well for us. I'm picturing over-interested cats covered in honey, wax, and angry beez.

We did what we could which was to take up most of the honey. We left some of it out there, tho,  in the off chance a swarm is out and about and wants to move right on into our a nice and roomy hive.

Not a bad supper - Honey Soy chicken.

The good news is that the honey is terrific. Last nite we made Honey Soy chicken and it was really good. I can't wait to drizzle some of the honey over goat cheese once the goats ramp up to full production next month.

In the meantime the crazy weather is making us all insane. At this writing (a couple hours before sunrise on Monday) its 73*...but it will snow within 24 hours. It's all a little ridiculous. I'm glad I didn't put any plants out yet and I hope my greenhouse will keep my seedlings from freezing tomorrow morning.

Happy Monday everyone - did your beez make it?

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Steaming Hard Cooked Eggs

Friends, you know we've all been here....

You desperately want a plate of deviled eggs - but your farm eggs are so fresh that they are too hard to peel. The pain is real.

Well, suffer no more. Stop boiling those hard cooked eggs - steam them.

Yep. It sounds crazy - right? When my pal Bourbon Red told me to give it a try I immediately wrote it off as some sort of ridiculous idea. But then .... well... maybe I'd try it.

It totally works.

I couldn't believe it. Fresh eggs - as is fresh that day - peeled like a dream. I wasn't left with a big nasty, jagged, ripped apart egg... it was smooth and perfect and perfectly cooked.

Even Alton Brown agrees..... this is a great video that explains it all (just about 3 mins). I'm absolutely sold on steaming hard cooked eggs.

And now if you excuse me... I'm going to go and steam up another batch of eggs so we can have deviled eggs all day long.

Note: if you can't see the video  - he says to steam the eggs for 15  - 20 minutes. I used 15 minutes and they turned out perfect. I put them in an ice water bath after steaming for about 5 minutes and peeled them so easily I couldn't believe it. I've tried doing this with eggs after boiling and it never worked for me.

Happy Sunday everyone! This is a revolution!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Bacon Scramble

Yikes - looks like there might be fewer feeder pigs this year. Does everyone know about this? The virus that is killing piglets?

That is a beautiful pig. So much bacon...

We'll be looking for pigs in the next couple of weeks. This virus tho, is some serious business. This story talks about how quickly it spreads and how it can wipe out a new crop of bacon seeds fast. The good news is tho, if the piglets make it, they will be fine. And no, doesn't look like it is a threat to people. Altho lack of bacon is a crime.

The last sentence of that article is staying with me, "We're all used to: 'We've got plenty of food, it's cheap. We'll eat what we want to,'" Meyer said. "We Americans are very spoiled by that, but this is one of those times that we're going to find out that when one of these things hits, it costs us a lot of money."

For a lot of reasons I've been thinking about this very thing. I'm concerned about the drought that has been on the West Coast - and if we are going to have a hotter than normal summer... and if we are already heading into the growing season without a lot of bacon. You know that food prices are just going to keep going up.  And no joke... the drug cartels in Mexico are killing each other over... limes. So what do you think is going to happen if there is a real food shortage and not just a garnish fruit?

What do you do?

Make your own food. Get a garden growing, get some meat chickens, do what you can with what you have. I know a bunch of folks who raise meat rabbits for their table and do a bang up job. Rabbits are easy to raise, easy to process, and well... breed like rabbits.

Well. They are made of meat....

As for us... we may have to look at alternatives to pigs. Very soon we are going to be flooded with goats... so this could be the first ever Year of the Goat BBQ. It is the world's most popular meat.

I'm also keeping my eye open for lambs. The trouble with lambs around here is that everyone wants them for 4H projects. Which is great - unless you are the person that wants to just have sheep and don't need the fancy, ribbon winning ones. They are expensive.

Another option would be to swoop in and scoop up some bull calves from the dairy operations around here. If we are going to have buckets and buckets of goat milk, well then, might as well feed out a bull calf, finish him on pasture, and call it veal. Is that horrible? No - what do you think they do with all the male calves on a dairy?

So we'll see what happen. But however it turns out - this could be a very interesting year in farming.

Happy Friday everyone - do you have your meat strategy worked out?

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