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Summer 2012- Fair Weathers Ranch Garden Update

I love gardening! It’s very rewarding but it can be time consuming. Much of late winter and spring I am preparing ¬†my garden for plants to grow in it. Then, I plant most seeds and seedlings in late spring. After that, I am actively maintaining the garden and weeding for the next month or so. I get a few weeks of not having much to do except for harvesting a few things here and there and keeping the weeds down (and water of course). And then, it’s harvest time in late summer/early fall. Which also happens to be the same time school starts for my kids.

We have monkeys in our trees ūüôā

Every year I have dreams of having a¬†leisure¬†summer. But, I have come to the realization that spring and summer are actually some of the busiest months of the year and I should get it out of my head that I have “extra time”. Between preparing the garden and caring for all the babies animals being born, there is little time for extra things. Though I do manage to find time for extra things, thankfully.

Our gardens are growing up really nicely. Like last year I got a late start so most of my harvesting will be in late summer/ early fall. I have harvested a few things so far. We have had peas, garlic, onions, carrots, kale, chard, spinach, green onions, cucumber, strawberries, artichoke and a few raspberries (very few).

I’ve been very pleased with the garlic and onions this year. I planted an elephant garlic I bought from the store and it produce some nice sized garlic. This year I learned that you can cut the tops off of your onion tops for green onions and they will keep growing. I have cut my onion tops 3 times and the greens keep growing back. A friend of mine said you can do this for years.

I have been really battling the rodents this year. I have had several sunflower plants eaten by gophers. They also got some of my garlic and potatoes. I have also had some grounds¬†squirrel¬†trouble. They like to take bites out of my melons and squash. Most of the time they don’t eat the whole thing but just leave marks. It’s quite annoying.

Picnic Watermelon and Georgia Rattlesnake Watermelon.

 

I am growing Georgia Rattlesnake watermelon again this year. Man, do those melons grow fast. Everyday I feel like they have grown an inch.

Some of the amaranth I grew last year reseeded so I have one huge Love Lies Bleeding amaranth growing in one of the rows. I also plant two other varieties of amaranth- Golden Giant and Red Hopi Dye. I am very pleased with both of these. I think the Red Hopi is going to be gorgeous.

The Love Lies Bleeding amaranth is to the right of me on the photo.

I added a third garden area this year. We call it the Upper Garden because it’s on the upper half of our property. It’s really not all that fancy though so don’t get too excited :). We are growing corn, pumpkin and squash in this area Upper. This garden area is likely going to be temporary. I do realize that we really need more space for the space hogging plants like squash but I think we will have to move the squash/corn garden somewhere else eventually.

This is the first year I really feel like the gardens are thriving with less work on my part. Taking time to prepare the garden is essential. It’s also important for me to be in my garden regularly for weeding, pest control and harvesting. But, if I could give only a few pieces of advice to new gardeners, it would be – amend your soil, get weeds while they are small, fertilize regularly and water consistently. ¬†Though if you are anything like me, you will ignore this advice until you have discovered the importance on your own ;).

How is your garden growing? I love to hear all about gardens in different areas. It’s fascinating to me ūüôā

Friendly Predators- Gopher Snakes

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I know this might freak some people out but snakes can be wonderful additions to your homestead. In our area there are two types of snakes that are the “good guys” to have around. The California King Snake and the Pacific Gopher Snake. Both are good for hunting mice and gophers but the king snake is my favorite because they also will deter and eat rattlesnakes. Since we also have rattlesnakes in our area, I welcome king snakes on our homestead. In fact, if we find a gopher snake or a king snake on the road somewhere we will catch it and bring it home to our property. Both of these snakes are usually docile.¬†I have never met a mean King snake but I have encountered angry Gopher snakes.

I have always had a love for snakes. Yes, I am that strange girl that always jumped at the chance at holding the snake at the zoo field trip. I am not sure why I like them so much. They are easy pets to take care of and they don’t require much attention. ¬†Growing up I had a gopher snake I named Gilbert. He was a nice snake. He ended up getting lost in our house once. I was so upset. Then my sister found him, caught him and put him back in his cage. It was very daring of her since she did not like snakes. I was so happy but Gilbert wasn’t. He turned mean for some reason. He would strike at me when I went to pick him up. I thought maybe he had gotten a taste of freedom and just didn’t want to be in captivity anymore. My mom and I took little Gilbert to a nice spot in the desert ¬†and let him go. A few weeks later, I find another snake in my house and it was Gilbert! Turns out that snake my sister so bravely picked up wasn’t even my snake…lol. I love that memory. We lived¬†across¬†the street from a vacant field and sometimes critters would get into the house. Maybe Gilbert was really a Juliet and her Romeo was trying to find her :).

A few days ago my husband was mowing and nearly ran over this guy.

 

I am still that strange girl that jumps at the chance at holding snakes. While my husband starred at him from a distance, I grabbed him carefully out the hole he was trying to escape in to. My husband thinks I am strange too. I picked this guy up by the head because even though Gopher snakes are usually docile, I didn’t want to take a chance. A bite from him would have hurt. This is biggest Gopher snake we have seen in our area. A¬†definite¬†keeper for the homestead. I expect he can eat a lot of gophers, mice, squirrels and rabbits.

After taking a few pictures, explaining to our youngest the difference between a gopher snake and a rattle snake (reminding her to never pick up any wild snake because they can still bite) we measured him and let him go on our property. I hope he stays close by.

What are your feelings on helpful predators such as the gopher snake? 

 

Learning From Past Farmers and Housewives

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I have acquired a new obsession. If you are not a fan of Healthy Homesteading’s facebook page you might not know about it yet. A friend of mine introduced me to a English television¬†series¬†called Tales from the Green Valley. The series is like a reality show and ¬†history show all rolled into one and it’s fascinating.

Tales from the Green Valley is only one of a series of great films about farm life of long ago. There is also Victorian Farm and Edwardian Farm. All three of these shows have the same three people living the life of the time (Ruth Goodman, Alex Langlands, Peter Ginn ), wearing period clothes and using period tools. Tales from the Green Valley also has historian Stuart Peachey and archaeologist Chloe Spencer but for some reason they are not in the other shows.  Ruth Goodman, a domestic historian, is my favorite of the team. I just love watching her work with period tools for cooking and cleaning.

I didn’t think I was going to like Victorian Farm and Edwardian Farm ¬†as much as Tales from the Green Valley but I ended up liking them just as much. ¬†Watching the films in order helps to see the progression of time and industry. Throughout all of the films they refer to books of that period. In the Victorian Farm, the book of reference for farm related tasks was The Book of the Farm. I made sure I wrote down all the book titles mentioned on the shows. I was excited to find out that most of those books are still available. Even better, I found The Book of the Farm¬†Henry Stephens available for free download from Google books. I also found for free download a book called Manual for the Apiary¬†by Albert John Cook. This book was not mentioned in any of the films but is very similar to book that was mentioned in the Victorian Farm called The Apiary: A Book of Bees, Beehives and Bee Culture¬†by Alfred Neighbour. I also found a book that Ruth referred to called The Family Save All by Robert Kemp Philip in the free download section of Google books.

If you are the least bit interested in homesteading, farming, gardening, animal husbandry or domestic living, I would highly recommend watching these shows. In this¬†technology¬†age it is very easy be unaware of simplicity at it’s finest. Generations and generations of people functioned very well without many of the things we “can’t live without”. It’s not like I want to go back to using outhouses or wood burning ovens but I do appreciate seeing how things were done in a simpler time. ¬†By understanding skills used in the past, I can understand why we do things they way we do them now. Not only that, some of the skills and methods used 400 years ago are far better than the methods we use now. Learning about how farmer’s wives prepared and¬†preserved foods when there we no refrigerators or freezers¬†is¬†fascinating¬†to me. Most food¬†preparation¬†and preservation methods were healthier and safer than our modern factory processed food industry. Did they fear having “pink slim” in their meat ? I think not ;).

Tales from the Green Valley

The Setting

Tales from the Green Valley, explores life on a British farm in the 17th century. This 12 x 1/2 hour television documentary, produced and directed by Peter Sommer, attracted large audiences and wide critical acclaim. Tales from the Green Valley follows the five as they labor for a full agricultural year, getting to grips with period tools, skills, and technology from the age of the Stuarts, the reign of James I (1620).

Everything must be done by hand, from plowing with a team of oxen using a replica period plowing and thatching a cowshed using only authentic materials, to making their own washing liquid for laundry and harvesting the hay & wheat with scythes and sickles. Each of the 12 half-hour programmes, made by Lion TV for BBC Wales, follows a month in the life of the farm situated on the Welsh borders. Source

Victorian Farm

The Setting

Historical observational documentary series following a team who live the life of Victorian farmers for a year. Wearing period clothes and using only the materials that would have been available in 1885, historian Ruth Goodman and archaeologists Alex Langlands and Peter Ginn are going back in time to relive the day-to-day life of the Victorian farmer.

The project is based on the Acton Scott estate in Shropshire ‚Äď a world frozen in time, lost in Victorian rural England. Its buildings and grounds are cluttered with antique tools and machinery collected by the Acton family, who have lived on the estate since the 12th century.

Working for a full calendar year, Ruth, Alex and Peter are rediscovering a lost world of skills, crafts and knowledge, assisted by an ever-dwindling band of experts who keep Victorian rural practices alive. Source

Edwardian Farm

The Setting

Following life on the farm over a whole calendar year, Edwardian Farm goes deep into a lost rural world where life was tough and working together was the only means of achieving anything.

Setting up home at Morwellham Quay, in Devon, the trio have to get to grips with the trials and tribulations of life at the turn of the 20th century. This was a time of great social change and tumult ‚Äď a time when farming was becoming increasingly mechanized.Source


My obsessive nature often takes me on rabbit trails where I discover all sort of great resources. After watching these films I plan to continue my entertaining educational journey with the following list of films. I have always been fascinated with history but have never committed myself to learning more of it. I hope to find time to start reading historical fiction books to help with my pursuit of educating myself. In the mean time, I am going to watch these next set of shows.

1900 House

Texas Ranch House

Frontier House

 

Are you a history lover? Do you have any historical fiction books you would recommend me starting with? 

Happenings Around the Homestead

For this week’s Barn Hop I thought I would share what I have been up to lately.

Gardening

  • Received¬†my Baker Creek seed order. Yay! I am so excited about spring.
  • Started some onion, artichokes, lavender, basil and egg plant seeds. The artichokes have come up but nothing else so far. I learned at the garden seminar I went to a few weeks ago that if you pinch the outside leaves off of a seedling that is growing to fast it will slow down growth. I had to do this with two of my artichoke seedlings because they were going to fast.
  • Planted some flower bulbs in the garden. I can’t wait for them to come up.
  • I have lots of planning still to do in my garden. After attending the garden seminar my garden layout plans have changed. My husband also has to build me a few things. I will be posting about the garden seminar soon.

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