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Archive for December, 2009

Update on the farmhouse utility room overhaul. I have gotten it cleaned out and ready to begin. I am now getting the measurements for the stock cabinets and the built-in broom closet. I am going to have to move an electrical plug farther up the wall to keep it from be hidden behind the new cabinet base. That should be big fun…I guess I will be wearing my rubber muck boots inside for that little adventure, you know, just in case….

 My twin sister Patsy stopped by the farm yesterday right as I had begun to cut out the sheet rock to install the new electrical box, it must have scared her to death for she has offered up her contractor’s phone number and credit card to get the job done…I’m just wondering if her offer has anything to do with my seven-year old hellion, oops… I mean loving, gentle little boy coming to live with her if something should in fact happen to me? Hum…I don’t know…seems suspicious though… “Don’t worry Patsy” Mark wouldn’t go near an open electrical box, and he would get first dibs on “Lucca” if I happen to get zapped…Does this mean you’ll want that credit card back??

 While I am still in this overly hyper post-Christmas mood that has me still captive, feeling like I need to be shopping for gifts, decorating something or cooking like a mad woman…I know its sick…but never the less I’m all in, I have also in barked on upholstering my dinning room chairs. These chairs were the very first pieces of furniture I bought for myself when I moved from home to Nashville and became an adult…yes,  that one purchase secured my then title as a newly independent woman. So I thought…

Any-who… I have toted these 6 old chairs from place to place over the past 20 years and these chairs were antiques when I bought them. I got the new fabric, funny though the new fabric doesn’t looked that different from the fabric that is on them right now…I got the tack gun…which by the way is just a stapler, and I started to work. I will say I thought it was going to be easier than is has been thus far. Man…they sure put a lot of those little tack in the babies back in the early 1900’s. 

 

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 It takes me a while to come down from the Christmas high. I don’t have anymore shopping to do, although I keep feeling like I need to be out there…amongst them shopping for what? It’s as if I am suffering from holiday post traumatic stress. The empty feeling after weeks of excitement and then the “what do I do now” feeling. Its insane…it also spurs me to into this ultra hyper mode and that is where I can get into trouble….

 I start looking for projects that will keep me busy…and because it’s too cold to do anything outside I start looking to the inside of the farmhouse for all the stuff that needs to be fixed or organized, cleaned or re-done. There is plenty around here that fall in all of those categories. Mark tends to stay hidden away in his office when I am in this state…and for good reason…either he will be enlisted as my helper or while I am in the middle of whatever project I am into my house is turned upside down. “Lucca” my 7-year son also goes into hiding it seems taking his toys with him fearing I may be into a purge mode and target his room in my mania. Come to think of it his room could use some cleaning up….

 I have decided on working in my farmhouse utility room instead. This is my catch-all room and it has become overloaded with stuff…stuff from the farm market, stuff I thrown in their to store for the farm like signs and seeds, seed trays and 2 of my worm compost bins,  Canning supplies, jars, jugs of vinegar, lids ect,  there are remnants like left over from our on-farm events like, serving trays, tablecloths and floral supplies. Of course there are brooms, mops and my vacuum as well as all the other cleaning craps I keep in there. This is a big job just cleaning this room out and organizing all this stuff…then I will need to find another storage place to clutter up again. The Farmhouse Utility Room View 1The Farmhouse Utility Room View 2The Farmhouse Utility Room View 3

This is a  big undertaking for I need to install some permanent stock cabinetry and custom-built small closet for storing mops, brooms, ironing board and the vacuum cleaner. My goal is all about storage and work-area. My budget is laughable as usual for such an undertaken of $400.00. Building the closet will be my biggest issue I think of the project…I have a problem with keeping things square…yikes! I can’t afford to hire this project out so It will be up to me to figure out installing all this all the while testing my carpentry skills….stop laughing….

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  Over the course of the next few weeks I will begin starting my seedlings here on the farm. Most of what I will start is the early cool season crops that I will plant into the field in February. Some of these I will protect with low tunnels, which are in essence mini hoop-houses we use here on the farm. I plan on posting a video of how we set up these low tunnels up so you can see just how simple they are to use even for the home gardeners. These low tunnels give us a couple of weeks or more jump on the normal planting schedule here in Middle Tennessee. The first thing that has to happen before I begin starting my seedlings is to get organize and making sure I have all the thing I will need for the process on hand. Because our farm has a healthy CSA program as well and our on-farm market here at Madison Creek Farms we have to start several flats of the same variety of whatever crops we intend to grow. Every year it seems like I don’t plant enough and run short as word about the farm spreads. The one thing about starting your own seeds is that you can grow so many different types of plants…plants you could never find at Home Depot or Walmart or where ever you do buy your plants. Don’t be intimidated by starting your own seedlings start with just a few tips and some easy varieties to begin with you will be just as hooked as the rest of us…just don’t quit your day job yet…lets get you growing first… Once you get your garden legs about you and a little confidence you can move on to the more fickle but oh so lovely plants. Below I have listed a few tips to get you started along with some of my favorite early season flowers, herbs and vegetables. You can always email me if you have a question or leave a comment if you have something to share with others that might set them on the path of glorious gardening.

Things you will need to get started when starting seeds:

1.        For easy quick start to seed starting I think you should start with the Jiffy Greenhouse Kits. These are fair nice kits you just need to soak the seed starting plugs in warm water until they double in size or more and you are ready to start seeding. One other thing I like about these Jiffy kits are they have a clear plastic lit that create a mini greenhouse effect. It saves water and helps to keep the seedlings from drying out as fast.

2.        Fish emulsion to water in your newly planted seeds. You want to give then the nutrients they need to start strong. 1 cap full of fish emulsion per 1 quart of water. This measurement is diluted for seed starting. Now I will warn you…fish emulsion stinks…so hello. I told you so….but your plants with love it!

3.        A shop light…just a cheap florescent shop light…no need to spend a lot of money on fancy grow light.

4.        A good bright sunny spot in the house to place you’re planted tray on. Even though you have extra lighting with your shop light you plants need the warmth and light from the sun as well.

5.     Your seeds! That is it… 

Good Seed Varieties For Beginners: remembers this list is for early season plants.

1.        Calendula  Flashback “edible flower” these are wonderful bright spring flowers that are great for cutting and also good from dressing up that fresh spring salad. They will bloom all summer off and on but they do best in the cool season of spring and fall.

2.        Dill “herb” there is nothing like fresh dill cut right from your garden. Dill can grow fairly tall and looks great even in you flower beds. Dill is another plant that just doesn’t like our hot summers here in the south and want to bolt and go to seed…which is great to allow some of your dill to do just that…free seed for next season garden!

3.        Lettuce “vegetable” easy to grow and if you start romaine lettuce now you will be ready for an extra early spring salad.

4.        Kohlrabi Winner “vegetable” I love this vegetable and if you have been apart of our CSA you know what I am talking about when I say yummy! The reason I chose the Winner variety is because it tend to not split as badly as some others do. But…okay…thefemalefarmer’s  little tip about homegrown vegetables…don’t compare vegetables appearances to store brought vegetables. If you grow organically and I hope you do…you are going to have splits, holes and dings..get over it…its not a big deal…just taste it and you will find there truly isn’t any comparison. If your Kohlrabi does split…it is still fine to eat…it does this if it has been a wet growing season.

5.        Spinach Spargo “vegetable” very easy to grow…grow plenty what you don’t eat you can preserve it by freezing it. You’ll thank me for that tip during those hot summer days when you would kill for something green!    

6.        Sweet Peas Mammoth Choice  “flower” the Sweet pea seed is fairly large about the size of …holy cow…a real pea…so they are a snap to plant. You will notice the seedlings will start to vine very quickly so give them lots of room. When you plant these flowers out they will need some support like a fence or trellis. Sweet Peas smell amazing and make wonder fresh-cut flower bouquets.

7.        Chives Purly “herb” start Chives now and you will have them for years. Chives like an early start in the cool days of spring.

8.        Nasturtium Jewel “edible flower” I love the color of these flowers and again like Calendula these are edible and look and taste great.

All the above mention seed varieties you can order from Johnny’s seeds ….love Johnny’s!

Once you have your seeds and your seed tray ready its time to plant…here’s a few femalefarmer tips:

If you are starting your seeds using the Jiffy kit follow their instructions about preparing the kit.

Tip 1. Rule of thumb…the bigger the seed the deeper you plant it. So for Sweet Peas I push them half way into the seed starting mix. The smaller the seed the shallower I plant it. Very small seeds don’t want to be covered with heavy soil. A nice little sprinkle of lettuce seed on top of the tray is really all you need to do…don’t plant these seeds too deep for they don’t like the dark.. Think about what the seed must need in nature to survive.

Tip 2. Let there be light and flowing air…once your seedling pokes its head out of the soil it wants …needs light to grow..at least 16 hours of light so keep those shop lights on. Also adjust hanging the shop lights about 4-6 inches above your seed trays. As your seedlings get taller you can keep raising the light. A fan blowing moves the air from around your seed trays it keep nasty fungus and other yucky stuff from taking hold and spoiling all your fun. Just a box fan set on low will do the trick.

Tip 3. Watch the moisture level of your seed trays. Not too wet not too dry.

 Tip 4. Once the first true leaves appears fertilize them again with the fish emulsion same strength.

In about 6 weeks your baby will be ready to start Harding off…that means taking them outside in under the porch or a protected area for a few hours a day. This allows them to get a feel for what their new home in your garden will be like. Watch that you don’t allow your little ones to get too much direct sunlight or too much wind. They are still babies…after a week of this they are ready to be planted in your garden.

Happy growing:)

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 Christmas is just around the corner…this is a reminder for myself as well…You have a gardener on your Christmas list…well I have 5 great gift ideas you should consider….seriously. Don’t be like my brother-in-law..God love his heart..he wouldn’t listen when he called me last year about gift ideas for my sister… I told him buy her shoes..she has a shoe thing too…a cute pair of heels…or boots, a nice little dress and a ticket to Mexico…she needs a vacation…did he listen… no…he bought her a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt and I think a guitar pick…she went out the next day and bought herself a big diamond ring and handed him the bill and a thank you for the bling! The point I am trying to convey poorly I might add is when you know someone likes certain things like..oh say…gardening that might be a great place to start when thinking about a gift you may be able to give them…and listen up…here is the key….that they may actually like.

TheFemalefarmers  

5 Great gift ideas for the gardener on your Christmas list

  1. Muck Boots $65/$100

Just read my previous post about these “must have” work boots. 

  1. Glaser 10”center wheel-hoe  $98.00

If there is one tool that I consider my favorite here on the farm it is my Wheel-hoe. The only thing better at weeding a bed might be the chickens…but they will eat you tomatoes in the process…use the wheel hoe!

3. Germination Station  $27.95

The best way to grow the coolest plants you know your gardener wants to grow is to start them from seed. This germination station has everything your gardener will need to start great healthy plants.

4. Classic Garden Shears $40.00

These shears are indispensable to me here on the farm. I use them for cutting fresh flowers to harvesting lettuce to trimming my husband hair…just kidding about..:) 

5. The Rooter Pot Kit $22.50

I love this product! In just 8 weeks your gardener can produce a brand new plant from just about any plant in their landscape of a size that would take 3 years from a cutting or seed. I am talking that heirloom Rose bush…or think of the hydrangeas, lilacs they could multiply in just one season. Saves money, time and garden treasures.    

So in closing there is my list with all the list that includes all the links to order your gardener a gift they will truly like this season….If anyone talks to oldfarmermark…please drop the hint…thefemalefarmer sure could use a tan this winter:) I’m thinking Mexico…

If you enjoyed this post…leave a comment…we do so love to hearing from you!

thefemalefarmer

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Love My Muck Boots!

My Favorite Farm Boots

After a decade of hard use my Muck boots are still my favorite shoes to wear here on Madison Creek Farms.

Protecting two of your most indispensable assets (your feet) should be a top priority when you are farming or gardening. Without these wheels the cart stays in the shed…in other words take care of your feet…Muck Boots are tough, durable and comfortable to wear and they do their job…they keep your feet dry, your legs protected while you are down on your knees pulling weeds and believe me there is nothing that worst then cold, wet and muddy feet to make your job miserable.

Don’t bother wasting your money on knock off Muck boots, they are not the same…its best to pony up now then to pay later…and pay you will every year when you have to get a new pair of those cheaper wannabe knockoffs of the original Muck Boots. I have done it…I have gardening friends that have done it and I will tell you honestly…it is a waste of good money to buy cheap work boot.

Think what you will…but I say Muck boots are sexy…yes, you read that right…Sexy!

The Original Muck Boots

Granted they may not be stilettos…be that as it may these calf hugging, rubber soled sirens scream farm girl chic not to mention farm girl smarts as well. If you have read any of my older “thefemalefarmer” blog posts before you know high heels and chicken poop is a bad idea! Take it from me…The Female Farmer…I wouldn’t wear any other work boots on the farm…get yourself a pair of Mucks…and you can thank me later…:)

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Farm fresh eggs

Fresh Farm Eggs at the farm

You haven’t tasted a real egg unless you have chickens of your own that are supplying you with wonderful fresh real eggs.  If not, get ready for a tasty surprize. Free range farm eggs are 100 x better.. not only for you health wise…but the taste of these eggs are hands down so much better. Rich in flavor and the color of the yolks are not that pale yellow watery thing…but a nice round firm healthy looking orange color that yells….I’m so fresh I shine! Try them for yourself…you will never want another store-bought egg I promise..

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Kale fresh and Yummy…

 Now that wintertime here in Middle Tennessee has taken hold the farm seems so sparse, void of all the buzzing and busyness that occurs during the growing season its seems almost bleak out there in the field with the exception of a island of green that floats up like a oasis in a brown sand dessert. Kale such a lovely hardy plant that can withstand cold…cold temperatures and still rise above the pack of other cold hardy plant with a dusting of frost and sweet flavor to boot. So many people have this idea of kale as just some kind of greens for garnishing with, sort of like parsley. But in fact Kale is truly delicious and easy to prepare not to mention Kale is loaded with nutritional benefits. As part of the Brassicas family, which includes Broccoli, Cabbage and Brussels sprouts, Kale is on the list of cancer fighting super foods that contain Organosulfur compound that may lessen the occurrence of some cancers as well as packed with beta-carotene, Iron, Vitamin A, C and potassium. Just how blissful it is for me to seize this opportunity to harvest this wonderful green vegetable from my garden and add it to my family’s dinner plate in a season that is so depressingly starved for something truly fresh, locally grown and GREEN!

Preparing fresh kale is much like preparing fresh spinach. Start with a good washing. Always no matter where or how your food is grown wash it thoroughly. This removes the dirt and grime from the leaf as well as the pollutants that are in the air that come to rest on these open air field grown plants… unwanted of course…. Make sure to shake off the excess water from the kale once you have washed it. I love my salad spinner for removing excess water from my greens such as Kale, Spinach and lettuces. A good 30 seconds in the spinner and my greens come out fluffy and light and sparkling clean.

A very simple way for cooking kale is to sauté it. Which is how I plan to prepare mine tonight for dinner.

 You will need a good large sauté pan with a lid

A pair of tongs for flipping the kale around in the pan

Note: Kale cooks down so to measure the amount you will need per serving I use the old hand trick…1 big handful of chopped kale per adult. Don’t be stingy about that handful…you will want plenty after you taste it! 

FarmHouse Sautéed Kale

 

1 TBLS of olive oil

1 clove of fresh garlic minced

¼ cup of diced onion

3 large handfuls of clean roughly chopped fresh kale

¼ Tsp sugar

1 TBS of Apple Cider Vinegar

½ cup of water

Salt and pepper to taste.

Rough chop the fresh kale.  Add oil to sauté pan on medium heat. Add garlic and onions cook until onions are translucent in color. Watch the heat of your pan you don’t want burn your garlic.

One handful at a time start adding your kale to the sauté pan. After each handful coat your kale in the pan by using your tongs and turning it over in the onion and garlic mixture allow it to wilt a bit before adding another handful. Once you have all the kale in your pan add the next 4 ingredients. Again using your tongs to turn and coat the kale. Place the lid on the sauté pan and cook for 10 to 12 minutes.

Now… for a December day that is dreary and cold my evening dinner with be green and warm…ya…hoo!

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