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Archive for January, 2010

TheFemaleFarmer On Tour

This past weekend was the kick off to our 2010 tour season and I can’t think of a better place to play music then at the world-famous Billy Bob’s honky-tonk in Ft. Worth Texas.  So I pack up my suitcase and loaded up on the tour bus leaving the farm to hubby Mark to tend to for the next couple of days.  It takes me a while to get back into the swing of things being back on the road after a few months at home not to mention the extra 5 lbs that I have gained being cooped up in the farmhouse while this cold winter been hanging around….I really don’t pay that much mind to gaining a little extra poundage this time of year, but I will say I had a heck of a time slipping back into those stage clothes this trip…  I have performed at Billy Bob’s for as long as I can remember and it is so much fun to play music in this over the top rockin’ little beer joint.  A couple of years ago Lyle Lovett came out and sat in with us for a couple of songs which was incredible as you can imagine. I once met actress Elizabeth Hurley hanging out back stage in the green room a few years ago…she doesn’t look it so much on TV but this girl is tall and of course very beautiful….the boys in the band all stood around with their eyes bulging like love-sick puppies  just gawking at her. You never know who’ll show up at this show,  so it’s always exciting.

Let me show you around Billy Bob’s…

Billy Bob's TX.

Now remember this place is famous for being the largest honky-tonk in the world!

You haven’t played Texas until you have made music at this venue…just asked these famous faces:)

Billy Bob's wall of fame

Billy Bob's

One of the things I like about playing gigs here is that Billy Bob’s  is connected to the Stockyard. This is a huge rodeo area and they were having a rodeo the night we played. I took these pictures just outside the back door where the tour buses were parked. How cool…cowboys!

The Stockyard

You can see the tour buses parked there on the side…these cowboys could care less about whose famous they care about their 8 second ride from being in the money tonight… Lord I love Texas!

Stockyard

Backstage in the green-room the walls are covered with signatures of the acts that over the years have played here. The whole room is now covered…it is really neat to see all the names:) Including one of my favorites…Loretta!

Patsy and I having a little fun before the show:)

"The Lynns" Peggy (L)& Patsy(R)

Now we are playing nice….which isn’t easy for us to do by the way:)

"The Lynns" Patsy & Peggy

great show, fun weekend….now back to those dang chickens pooping all over the porch:)

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Seed catalogs are rolling in just in time to mentally escape if only for a few precious moments from winter’s tight hold on us all. This is an exciting time for gardeners both old hats and beginners a like. Dreams of starting a spring garden fill our heads much the same as lollipops and candy canes fill the heads of our children at Christmas…it is all we are able to think about us lovers of compost and muddy muck boots. So I thought it would make for a good post to talk a bit about the three (P’s) of the perfect organic kitchen garden.  Planning, preparing and planting.  These are the essential components that make for successful gardening experience. Too many of us…including myself have jumped too quickly into putting our gardens out just to find later in the season if we would have just taken the time to better plan and prepare we would have been able to reap greater rewards with much less effort and cost.

Planning:

You wouldn’t build a house without a house plan nor would you sew your own clothes without a pattern. The foundation of a good garden starts with a great garden plan.

Get the information you need to plan wisely…

(a)      Know your climate-growing zone.

My growing zone is 6b here in middle Tennessee. But within my properties climate zone are micro growing zones scattered about the farm. These are areas that depending on their geographical locations and attributes can raise or lower my ability to grow outside of my 6b zone. For instance my farm which is located in a valley that is flank on both side of the property by tall wooded hills. In the fall and early spring my farm runs a higher risk of frost damage even when my neighbor across the road doesn’t. The reason is the cold air that flows off the hills settles in this valley where my farm is located. This section of the farm with the lowest land fall and just so happens to be where my production field is located this is where the heavy moisture ridden cold air becomes still and rests low to the ground allowing frost to form more easily. Because of that I have to plan to be ready with extra protection for my garden even when the temperatures drop below 45 and there is moisture in the air and clear skies overhead. Knowing your own properties microclimate gives you an edge in what to plant when and how to protect your efforts. Retail plants have labels that will tell you what climate zones any giving plant will survive in. You should stay within your suggested planting zone for best results.

(b)      Deciding on the best site for your garden.

One of the most common mistakes people make when choosing a location for their garden is placing it too far away from their home. Usually this is because of aesthetic reasons being that most kitchen gardens are considered annual plots. Meaning they will not be pleasing to look at all year around. And there is truth to some of those concerns unless you intend to create permanent pathways and add hardscape to your garden area. But I will tell you this…if your garden is more than 300 feet from you home chances are during those hot summer months that 300 feet will seem like 3000. The farther the garden the less attention it will receive. It’s best to build a small planting bed close to your home that you use for a garden or use containers on your porch or deck then plant your garden in the back 40.  Your new garden location will need the following:

  • 6 to 10 hours of full sun
  • well draining soil….do not pick a location that will hold puddles of water nor is too rocky
  • free of shallow water lines, gas lines or field lines

(c)      Water source, storage and wind breaks

Another common mistake new gardeners can make when choosing a location for their garden is placing it too far from a water source, than having to run an extra long and heavy watering hose to their garden. Again this will take it toll on a gardener during those hot summer months when your garden may need daily watering. I have been there and have made this mistake myself so believe me when I tell you taking the time up front to plan your location wisely is my top recommendation for have a successful and gratifying gardening experience. We use drip irrigation here on the farm to water our vegetable, herb and flowerbeds. To learn more about drip Irrigation visit dripworks.com they can help you in designing a drip irrigation system that is right for your garden plan. By using drip irrigation you not only will be using less than half the amount of water but in addition you will be also helping to keep soil borne diseases from being splashed upon the lower leaves of the plant. Drip Irrigation works by using a long tube line that has very small holes that releases a small drip of water right at the base of the plant. The system works on a timer so you can set it to begin watering at 5am to 7am in which the continual drip of water will be absorbed slowly and deeply straight to the root of the plant. No waste and no wet leaves or splashing of soil onto the plant. A drip irrigation system is not expensive and will pay for itself in so many ways by the end of one hot summer.

Another consideration for your gardens location should be storage. Shovels and hoes and rakes are all part of your gardens investment and its nice to have them close at hand during what time you have to work in your garden. Having some sort of storage space near your garden will save you from having to leave a chore to find another tool located across the yard or field…and that will get very tiresome quickly.

If you live in an area that is known for high damaging winds you will need to locate your garden in a protected area or install a windbreaks. This can be done by planting a row of tall trees or locating your garden where a building or your house can break the wind before it blows your corn stalks to the ground.

(d)      Hard-scape, raised beds and pathways

If you decide that your garden’s location will be a permanent home you may want to consider hard-scaping in your overall garden plan. Hardscaping are things like fences, walls, arbors or structures that will become permanent additions to your garden. A good fence is a must if deer present a problem. Raised beds like the ones we use here at Madison Creek Farms are all part of our hardscaping.  Having a permanent location for your garden allows you to consider making your kitchen garden more visually  pleasing as well as more user friendly. Rule of thumb when it comes to pathways and raised beds in your garden layout. If you are building a raised bed to plant in make it no wider than 4ft. This will save you from having to go from side to side when you’re planting the bed or weeding the bed. The pathways should be at least 2.5 ft wide and 3ft is optimal for moving wheelbarrows and other things long the pathway.

Having a mixture of perennial plantings and annuals will also keep your garden interesting to look at all year-long. So think about planting borders of perennial landscaping plant and flowering bushes along the perimeter of your kitchen garden.

There are a couple of good on-line garden planners that can help you layout your garden plan.

this site offers a free on-line garden planer with tips on planting.

Free Garden Planer

I love this site! It has a click-able gardening zone map and a zip code local gardening guide.

growing zone/local gardening guide

Start small and grow slowly

It’s easy to get excited and bite off more than we can really chew…so start small. Gardens have a tendency to get out of control if not given enough attention. And a kitchen garden needs a lot of attention. So start small and expand only when you feel you can take on more weeding, planting and harvesting. Don’t over do it the first year or two or chances are you will get discouraged. It’s best to grow well then grow large. Learn about how to grow just a few plants well then move on to adding a couple of more plants next year. Each plant requires different things and they have their own pest, diseases and growing needs. Once you master growing a few tomatoes and peppers then next season move on to adding a couple of squash and beans plants to your garden. Slowly learning and slowly growing your garden will not only help to lessen the workload of gardening but will result in a better outcome and investment.

Next installment of growing the perfect organic kitchen garden: Preparing

We will be rolling up our shirt sleeves and putting on our muck boots…Now that you have your garden plan its time to put your pencil down and grab a shovel…we will be preparing your new kitchen garden site.

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The Family Garden

Mom's Blue Ribbons

 

I grew up on a farm…my father was a farmer…my mother a blue ribbon gardener. By that I mean she won a bevy of blue ribbons every year at the county fair for her vegetables and canning. I guess I picked up on the love of growing things from them. When I was a little girl I can remember my mother and my grandmother canning every summer. Our old root cellar shelves would be lined with green beans, pickles, tomatoes and jams. I use to love to hide away in the root cellar and sneak a jar of my mother’s pickled corn…oh my was it wonderful. Our garden was always grown organically back then as was most of our neighbors..what neighbors we did have in Hurricane Mills anyway, the tiny speck of a place I grew up. My father would dump a load of composted manure on the garden every early spring from cleaning out the barn. We didn’t have a water hose that would reach the garden so my sister Patsy and I would have to tote buckets upon buckets of fresh water to the garden and cup by cup by cup..water each and every plant by hand. Lord how we hated having to work in that garden. By mid July the bugs, heat and weeds would take over and most of the time my parents would allow nature to take its course. But up until they had their fill of the garden my sister and I would be expected to help weed, plant and water almost everyday. Our family garden was large…very large in fact and it would require the whole family to tend it, no one was exempt. Both of my parents grew up in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky…dirt poor and bore a survival instinct that most children had who came face to face with the great depression. They had never forgotten what is was like to go hungry or without…so when times were good they planned for when times could in fact turn bad. In some ways that stuck with me through the years and I too find myself hoping for the best but planning for the worst just in case. 

I learned a great deal about life those summers in that garden, I learned a great many more things about my family from those experiences as well. It was our story time, our together time and our shared victories and sometimes shared failures, but either way we shared them as a family. As much as I didn’t want to help out as a child, I am so thankful I did for now I do miss those summers together in our family garden. Not only was it a place that fed our bellies it was a place that fed our families history to be carried on and handed down. There are times now when I am in my own vegetable garden a memory comes flooding over me of my grandmother hands pale with age and worn from a lifetime of hard work gently cradling a palm full of seeds as she made her was down a long row planting each one within the soil. I remember she always wore a bonnet over her long graying hair she kept tightly pinned up in a neat little bun on top of her head. Patsy and I would start our giggles as she made her way to the garden dressed for her day in the sun. I remember my Pop’s sweet tender strawberries his pride and joy of our family’s garden. He would holler after my twin sister and I saying “you’ns two twins stay out of Pop’s berry patch…you hear”, knowing full well his pleas went unheard by us. The berries just too tempting…too wonderful warm in sun and sweet on our tongue. I didn’t know it then but these were the times that will forever keep in my heart and these are the things that I put into my own garden…for each season I plant those memories again and again in my own soil….they grow and they bloom and they feed my soul for another year… and they feed another child…my own child. 

 

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The Winter Farm Crew

Great day to be in the sunshine:)

 

Today was the first sunny day with the temperatures warm enough to be outside in weeks, we put on our farm gloves and ditched our heavy coats and headed for the field to get a little work done. We have a lot of beds to re-build and repair before the early planting season begins in February.  We are cleaning out the last of the late fall/early winter crops and for that job we needed some farm labor.   

 
Introducing the Madison Creek Farms “winter farm crew”

Field Forman "Calude"

 

 

     

Claude the roster takes his job very seriously as you can tell from this photo. He is crowing his orders to his hens and keeping an eye out for when Ole farmers Mark starts slacking off.  Mark is clearing the last of the broccoli bed from this fall. Once the bed is clear we can start repairing for the new season.   While the ground is still fairly hard and cold we are not planning on digging in it or adding compost at this point, but we do need to clear away the debris so it harbors no over-wintering insects.     
 
The next farm crew members I would like to introduce to you is Claude’s lovely girlfriends “The Hens”. Now it’s not easy working with Mark and Claude…they do demand a lot from their ladies….But these girls seem to be enjoying their day in the sun.  Chickens are indispensable as far as I’m concerned as a farm animal. They fertilize, they are at good organic pest control and they give you great tasting organic farm eggs too! I mean what other animal can you think of that gives so much and ask so little in return…. 
 
 
Person or critter…everyone has to pull their load here on the farm and these two are no exceptions.  Millie and Trophy are the best of buddies. Where there is one there you will find the other. Mark and I get such a kick out of just watching them interact with one another. Everyday just about Mark will take them on a walk though the woods here on the farm. As soon as they see him they start yelping and whinnying. Mark will open the fence gate and here they come running so excited and happy.

Millie and Trophy

 

Both Millie and Trophy are loveable and such a joy.  Now today these two are helping do their part clearing the beds. Millie “donkey” & Trophy “goat” Our farm animals play a Vidal role here on the farm. The goat and the donkey supply us with material for the compost pile as well and eating down the grass that likes to grow in the production beds.  Not to mentions the kids that visit love to pet the animals. And the animals love the attention.     

 
 
Speaking of attention; Even The female farmer has to get a kiss or two from time to time:)   Trophy isn’t going to be left out of any sort of affection. He was a bottle baby goat only an hour old when he came to live with us on the farm and he is spoiled rotten…
 

TheFemaleFarmer

 

Trophy & Millie with Peggy

 

Millie Kisses

 

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Over the past few weeks here on the farm while I have some time indoors….I have been catching on some reading.  I thought I would share with you one of my favorite books I have read during this cold winter we have had.

Barbara Kingsolver’s  Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

 Best selling Author Barbara Kingsolver and her family take us on a food journey as they pledge to eat only local, non industrialized food. They grow their own garden, shop local farmers markets, and forage for wild mushrooms as well as seek out local producers for their meat, eggs and dairy. 

A wonderful story of how the Kingsolver family choose to take control of their food for one year and in turn found the experience brought their family closer together as well as closer to their local community. 

I loved this book! Even though I thought it was a bit over the top to totally ditch the grocery store all together for a year….don’t think even I could have done that…Barbara as well as both her daughters and her husband provided us with a comprehensive book of information that I believe everyone who is interested in better health, better food should read.

In fact, I have listed this book in our farm’s CSA handbook this year for our shareholders reading list. 

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Peak-a-boo

 

It has been bitterly cold the past couple of weeks here in Middle Tennessee with temps down to single digits. I have a couple of hens that have sat on a clutch of eggs and here during their last few days before they should hatch these hen needed some extra protection while they are sitting. I brought the nests and hens into the farmhouse as you may have read in a previous post “They Don’t Call It A Farmhouse For Nothing”, well a couple of mornings ago I woke up to the sound of “Tweet, Tweet, Tweet…baby chicks.  Our first farm babies of the new year!

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Fresh Ideas For Everyday Good Living …Madison Creek Farms

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