august in the garden…..

Last night I was chatting with my mom on the phone. I haven't seen her for over a year. My parents, brother, and nephews all live in Alaska and our summer + fall travel plans have all been put on hold due to the pandemic. As my mom said last night, "It's hard, but it could definitely be much harder." She's right. She hasn't seen the farm since we've moved in, so I was chatting about the garden and how wild it gets this time of year. Kale waist-high, zucchini tripling in size overnight…..

Our garden last year was four raised beds full of mostly medicinal herbs and just a few basic veggies…..

year one, spring garden

year one, late summer

I shared a little in a previous post about how we expanded things this spring, and now I've finally got some photos to share here. Recent happenings include a terraced row of Munstead Lavender along the hill (righthand side of the first photo below) and the second greenhouse is up. I'm a little late planting for winter, but it's mostly things like radishes and greens, so I think we'll be just fine.

year two, late summer

The original four raised beds are what you can see on the left. Joe had the idea to have these curvy sort of organic-looking beds, which add so much to the magical feeling of the garden this year. You can see three new large beds on the right of the photo. There is a long mostly straight bed at the back with flowers + tomatoes + peppers + culinary herbs, a teardrop-shaped bed in the middle, and a curvy bed on the bottom right. Just out of the frame in the first photo, there is one more perennial medicinal herb + flower bed at the base of the hill on the far right. Also not visible are two 20 foot rows of raspberries to the right of the greenhouse and behind that 15 or so blueberry bushes, 3 rhubarb plants, and a nice two-bay compost setup that Joe built this spring.

second year garden permaculture biodynamic

This photo is looking up towards the house, which is just out of view to the right, you can see a strawberry bed at the top right which will probably become a perennial flower garden next year. I plan to move the strawberry bed into the bottom garden and will likely be fencing it off from our flock of 20+ free-range hens who love rearranging my garden mulch!

The medicinal herbs and veggies are all interplanted in what to some might seem like a bit of a mess, and to others a magical weaving of food and medicine that represents our use of these plant friends…. everything connected and together. Admittedly, this looser gardening style is new to me. In the past, I've been a straight-lines-and-specific-categories type of gardener. But a lot of biodynamic + permaculture reading along with Joe's desire for the garden to feel like it sprung up out of the woods has shifted everything. So far it seems to be working out pretty well…

nasturtium swiss chard rain garden

umpqua broccoli permaculture garden

sunflower rain garden

nasturtium kale chard interplanted permaculture biodynamic garden

green bean flower garden biodynamic permaculture

In between baskets full of harvesting and weeding and preserving food – we're making mental and physical notes of what worked and what didn't. What we need less of or more of next year. It's our first year (ever!) having a garden this size and we've learned a lot about the specific pros and cons to growing food + medicine in this space. I suppose every year will bring knowledge with it, but this first year has seemed especially full of it. 

Here we are though, late August, busier than we've ever been and more times than not still in love with it all….. it's a pretty sweet spot all around.

more soon,

s

grow, harvest, dream…….

Harvest season is in full swing here on the farm. Almost every day we come in with a basket full of something that needs to be dried, tinctured, canned, or frozen. 

Some plants, like Tulsi pictured below, give us several harvests before the cold sets in. I have cut this patch back three times now and I'm certain I'll get one last big harvest. I made a double infused tincture, tulsi glycerine, tulsi honey, and the last harvest will be dried for tea. Sitting in a tulsi patch trimming plants is pure magic….

tulsi holy basil farm

Echinacea Purpurea with a spider friend…… I use the leaf + flower + root to make a tincture each year and add it to our Cold + Flu tincture blend. 

echinacea purpurea spider farm

Harvesting is my favorite part of growing food + medicine. Baskets full of herbs + veggies + berries make my heart sing. I almost always harvest solo and it's such a meditative time for me in the garden or woods. Thinking, giving gratitude, moving slowly. These are the times I notice the tiniest spiders on full blooms, pay attention to the birds singing + chipmunks chattering, feeling present + grounded.

Every other day right now, I pick a small quart basket of Calendula. I've made tincture for anti-fungal blends and the rest is dried in small batches, slowly filling half-gallon jars that will be used to infuse oil that will become skin healing salves and body butters.

sweetbrier farm calendula flower

My most recent wild harvest is Monarda fistulosa from our field. I made an infused honey, it's really lovely for sore throats, and a tincture that we'll add to our anti-viral blends. Lastly, I dried a whole gallon this year to experiment with cold + flu tea blends. If it's tasty, our CSA members will get some to try out in their winter shares. 

While out in the field harvesting and lost in thought imagining ways to use Monarda – a very abundant plant in our field – I wandered a bit far from my basket while plucking flowers and turned back to see this image….

field monarda harvest

A whole lot of wild, a little path, and my basket full of medicine. This is the kind of thing I tuck into my heart + soul in the long cold months of winter. It's the sort of thing my dreams are made of…..

Be well friends.

xo

~s

a few recent happenings…..

Spring was a whirlwind of events here on the farm.

Joe's much-anticipated gathering to celebrate his retirement from the Coast Guard was canceled due to the covid19 pandemic. He packed up solo at his apartment in Massachusetts, had a small informal retirement ceremony at work, and left. Four hours later he showed up at the little co-op I work at in his fancy dress uniform. We took photos at home in the yard, and that was the extent of his day. Definitely not what we expected, but memorable none the less I suppose.

Only a few days after Joe's arrival home, our farm-in-a-box arrived from Fedco with over 100+ plants. This spring we planted 20 fruit trees, a dozen blueberries, 3 dozen raspberries, a strawberry patch, a dozen more medicinal perennials, lots of veggies in raised beds near the house, and rows of potatoes and onions in our field. There were also far more shrubs, bushes, flowers, and medicinal herbs than anyone could keep track of. Something like 500 plants minus the veggie garden. And then it didn't rain for about 8 weeks so we (mostly Joe) spent 20+ hours a week watering all these new little plant babies. It was busy, to say the least. The reward is here though, lush green plants and baskets full of food.

We bought two greenhouse kits this spring, only one of which we got up before the planting extravaganza mentioned above. Soph and I started a couple of hundred veggie, herb, and flower seedlings in it. I'm hoping we'll get the second one assembled soon so we can get winter veggies started in early August for greens and such. My friend Bliss has a lovely little greenhouse that she picks salad greens and kale from all winter. Such abundance in January. 

We bought 8 chicks during the first part of social distancing and we just added another 16, plus four baby ducks. Fluffy = stress reduction! By the time this batch is ready to join the flock outside, the two dozen meat birds chicks will be here. This is our first time raising meat birds and we opted for Freedom Rangers which will grow slower and enjoy foraging.

Infrastructure projects included three new garden beds, cattle panel trellising for peas/beans/cucumbers, a chicken coop, and 300+ feet of deer fencing around the new orchard. Joe used a rototiller to till three forty-foot rows for potatoes and onions in the field next door – and then we spent hours picking rocks out of the soil. So. Many. Rocks. Joe installed recessed lighting in our dining room and living room as the first part of a bigger project – finishing the attic space! We're adding two small bedrooms and storage upstairs. The kids will move into the new rooms, Sophie's loft will become a guest space and sewing nook, and Luke's old room will become a much-needed studio space for Sweetbrier Farms Apothecary! All these projects pushed Joe's garage + pottery studio project off until next spring, he definitely took one for the team putting all of our needs before his, he's like that.

I suppose that pretty much has you up to date on the farm. Oh, one last thing. A sneaky photo taken by our kiddo on a recent sunset walk. It really is a little slice of heaven here on the farm…..

Until next time,

~s

if you can’t find it, make it…….

I spent a good deal of time this winter trying to find a fresh herb CSA in our area. There is a lovely one in Western Massachusetts, but their drop offs were all in locations over an hour away from us. On Fridays. Which can get pretty crazy in the summer vacation traffic surge we see around here.

My goal this summer was to start a Community Supported Herbalism project. I want to create access for others to fresh organic herbal products. While I do have access to some wonderful land for wildcrafting….. there are also so many lovely cultivated plants I wanted to work with.

Then I had an idea. If I couldn't find a grower, I would become the grower….

Herb seedlings

Herb bed

Herb bed 2

Herb bed 3

Chive flowers

This year in our garden, aside from 4 cherry tomato plants and a row of peas…… the rest is ALL herbs. (we're fortunate to have a wonderful csa that provides us with fresh vegetables all year!) A good handful were perennials that came back from last summer, but the bulk was sourced throughout my area from small farms and friends. And the weeds were free…. goodness I have a lot of weeding to do this week!

This is what we currently grow on our little one-acre plot (wild & cultivated):

Chamomile, comfrey, catnip, echinacea, nettle, goldenrod, lemon balm, jewelweed, red clover, tobacco, yarrow, teasel, horseradish, lavender, calendula, poke, dandelion, violet, elderberry, valerian, st. john's wort, holy basil (tulsi), rue, spilanthes, peppermint, spearmint, white sage, bee balm, mugwort, marshmallow, plus some culinary favorites : cilantro, chocolate mint, pineapple sage, culinary sage, dill, thyme, rosemary, oregano, parsley, chives & basil.

I spent the weekend tucking the new ones into the garden with a little prayer, feeling so grateful to have this bounty to teach me over the next few months. I always learn so much more about a plant when I am able to see it and touch it. I feel grateful to have found such an incredible selection of herbs all grown within an hour of our homestead and can't wait to make fresh herbal products all summer right from my backyard.

I look forward to sharing garden walks and recipes with you as we go along.

xo,

stephinie

PS – Signups for the CSH begin tomorrow. We have very limited membership this year, so if you are interested act quickly!

 

spring homestead notes……

Spring garden

Burdock

Welsummer hen

Easter egger hen

Plum tree buds

Bee hive

Lost hive

Queen bee

Kids bees

 

Mud season has begun. Not that it really ended this winter, I'm pretty sure the ground never really froze, so it's been on the muddy side since October. The chickens are glad the last snow we got has melted. We clear a little spot and open up their door when the snow is on the ground…. but they won't venture past it. They just stay on their straw and squawk at us. I wish I could make a summer snow barrier to keep them out of the neighbor's yard. I'll be coming up with some alternatives this summer to try and let them free range but still keep them in our yard. Especially since we're adding to the flock. (we have eggs incubating right now!)

Our fruit trees are thinking about budding out. Luckily they have not yet, this warm winter hasn't fooled them and I'm glad. It's fooled a few magnolia trees around and I'm so sad to think I might not get to swoon at their pink flowers this spring. We'll see… I'm debating on wether I should move our fruit trees to the farm or not. There is one apple tree for sure up there, and I look forward to seeing it in bloom this spring… and looking for more!

On a sad note, we lost one of our hives. This was a first for us. I can't help but assume we did something wrong, it's only our second winter as beekeepers. This hive was configured differently, so maybe moisture was an issue for them? I know they didn't run out of food. It's frustrating, and sad. This was the large swarm I caught last year for those of you who saw it on instagram

Luke was following me around outside while I snapped these pictures and asked to open the hive up and look inside. I showed him the small cluster of bees and the queen. He carefully picked a few bees up and examined them and ever so carefully put them back down. 

They're so tiny, and beautiful. He whispered. 

I think that in the sadness of losing them, there is a great learning experience had by my boy, to be able to see honeybees up close like this. So I guess there's that.

And before I get this whole post too dark and dreary, we do still have two other hives that are doing well. In fact, I was greeted by bubbling good sized clusters in each hive as I slipped food under the cover on a warm day earlier this week. So there is hope! Luke of course thought we should open up the other hives too. After all, 48 degrees feels balmy this time of year. I told him we couldn't yet, but that I had a trick for checking on them. We wandered over to each of the other hives and I told him to press his ear against the side and gently slap it with his hand. (They'll buzz up – this is my ultra not fancy way of checking on them throughout the winter…)

His eyes widened, I hear them mom! It sounds like they are walking around on little tiny leaves.

Just a few more weeks little bees, the groundhog said spring was coming early….

Happy weekending friends.

xo,

s

 

Garden notes : June 10

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

You'd never guess by these photos we're in need of rain. I feel guilty looking at the trees around me as I water the garden. We've had such a dry spring, with SO MANY caterpillars. It's been really hard on all the big trees. Some of them have almost no leaves at all….. I've been collecting the caterpillars as I water and feeding them to the chickens. I don't think I'm making a dent in the population, but I must be helping my poor fruit trees and bushes a little.

Inside the garden everything is dark green and lush and growing, growing, growing. The beans and squash and melon have popped up. I'm hoping to trellis them. I did better with spacing this year (I really struggle with that) so things appear to have more room for growing…

And the blossoms! Tomato, peas, chive, blackberry, arugula. I let the arugula go to flower just to see what they looked like. Then I cut it all down and pureed it up with a bit of olive oil, lemon, and salt. I froze it into ice cubes, it will be delicious on pizzas or in soups & sauces. Arugula was the only salad-like green I planted this year as we get so many delicious greens in our CSA. I'm learning what we need extra of and planting my garden to compliment our farm share. The chive flowers have been sprinkled over our salads and some chive aioli dipping sauce I made for artichokes. I am in love with those tiny purple flowers!

Even though the garden is small, it's the biggest I've ever tended to. I've been making a list of "to do's" at the beginning of the week and then try to get just one task done each day during the week. This has been helpful as my weekends have been so full the last month or so. (Herb School and a conference this weekend!) 

Tell me, what's going on in your gardens? Leave a link if you're keeping notes.

xo,

s

 

garden notes : may 20

Garden-1

Lemonbalm

Sage

Calendula

Kale

Arugula and peas

Garden gnome

Blackberry

Raspberry

Garden-2

It's our second year in the garden here.

Our chives, oregano, & sage overwintered. I was happy to see it under the leaf mulch I had put down. It was green and thriving as soon as the feet of snow melted away. The mint, lemon balm, and nettle have all come back. We've already enjoyed a few things made with them. The calendula patch re-seeded itself and is filling in nicely….. with flowers and weeds! 

I planted arugula, kale, and peas first. They are all up. Over the last week I planted some herbs ::  basil, cilantro, dill, & savory. I also planted a few melon & zucchini….. which I hope to trellis….. along with some marigolds & several rows of green beans. I also picked up some really beautiful tomato plants at the farm, 9 paste and 6 cherry. I know which are paste and which are cherry and planted them in two different beds….. but I won't know what variety they are until they produce fruit….. which will be really fun.

I added another 6 inches of depth to two beds, so I have two shallow and two deep raised beds now. Joe helped me haul about a dozen wheelbarrow loads of wood chips to spread over the mud. Ohhhh the mud….. My gnomes have moved to their summer homes out in the garden too! 

I trellised the blackberries and moved the raspberries. They are both happy and budding out with blossoms!! Blackberries fruit on second year growth so it really is exciting to see those buds forming. And the raspberries have SO MANY blossoms in their new sunny spot against the house. I still need to move the grapes, plant potatoes, and get a big flower bed ready where the winter squash was last year. I might plant a few winter squash too. I tend to have bigger garden ideas than I have beds to put it all in.

It's really good to be out there cleaning things up and starting new things. I'm looking forward to sharing a summer of garden posts with you.

Are you planting anything? Share your gardening news or a link to your own garden notes……

xo,

s

 

late summer sunshine……

late summer sunshine.....

late summer sunshine.....

late summer sunshine.....

late summer sunshine.....

late summer sunshine.....

I've been slowly tidying up and putting the garden to bed over the last few weeks. I struggled with whether or not to start a fall bed of greens and decided to let it go. We have a wonderful winter CSA that keeps us eating fresh veggies through the end of December, and I could use the break. Next year I hope to build a few cold frames for early & late season growing….. but this year I am ready to hang up the gardening hat. Like most first years, I learned a lot. This fall will have us moving the raspberries, blackberries, grapes, and apple trees who are too shaded in the first spots I chose for them. Spring sun is tricky and the leaf cover was much bigger than I expected. The squash patch proved to be a long finicky haul for the hose and so it will get moved much closer, to the compost pile where the accidental (or volunteers as my friend calls them) squash from our CSA seeds grew much better with much less tending. About 18 beautiful squash came from that pile…. a good start for our winter pantry. Next year I will plant less lettuce. More beans. More herbs, the Fedco tree catalog arrived and I've got my heart set on several perennial medicinal herbs, elderberry trees, and rhubarb. I'm slowly peeking at library books for my annual fireplace reading session of garden books. So far these have made the list : Backyard Winter Garden, The Resilient Farm & Homestead, Carrots Love Tomatoes, and The Thinking Beekeeper.

I fell in love with those Inca Marigolds you see pictured. Such big lovely happy flowers. I've been feeding them to the chickens, they have medicinal properties and encourage bright orange yolks. I've been sprinkling them in nesting boxes too, hoping to discourage any bugs and keep things smelling nice. I've read that they can be used in teas and salves, so I've been drying a few (along with the Calendula) every few days for winter herb projects. Of course I'll add some to the chicken's feed in the winter too. Or perhaps sprinkle some into a popcorn treat sometime in January when they have about had it with snow and cold. Oh yes, and savings seeds from both….

The last of the cherry tomatoes have been picked and a good lot of them have made it into the dehydrator. Yes, I bought one. I'm so glad I did too. We've dried peaches, apples, pears, herbs, tomatoes, sage bundles, marigold petals. Putting up the harvest just got a whole new category….

I find myself trying to firmly plant my feet into this earth…. here. Sometimes it's hard. This tour is just four years. It may not be long enough to enjoy an apple from the trees we planted or harvest elderberries. But it will be long enough to learn to care for them and perhaps pay it forward to whoever calls this place home next…. and in the meantime I remind myself there is nothing I would rather be doing than tidying up a fall garden. Dreaming of the next just one year at a time. Collecting the last of the tomatoes in the late summer sunshine……

xo,

s

 

in my garden :: june 19

Last time in my garden:

in my garden :: june 6

This time in my garden:

In the garden :: June 19

In the garden :: June 19

In the garden :: June 19

In the garden :: June 19

In the garden :: June 19

In the garden :: June 19

In the garden :: June 19

In the garden :: June 19

Everything is in bloom! All the peas and beans are blossoming out….

We tied up the tomatoes, peas & beans…. it's a mad nest of green and twine out there….

The potatoes are growing faster than we cover them. I thinned the greens and we ate braised greens with fried eggs on top. Total backyard lunch. Delicious.

And do you see those squash and watermelon blossoms at the bottom? They are huge!! We're so excited by the idea of growing just one watermelon.

I'll miss the daily walk and seeing every little thing change a tiny bit here and there while I am away….. and I'm grateful to that guy of mine for holding down the homestead fort over the next few weeks.

Tell me what's blooming in your garden…….

xo,

s

 

in my garden :: june 6

last week in the garden::

in my garden : may 28

 

this week in the garden::

in my garden :: june 6

in my garden :: june 6

in my garden :: june 6

in my garden :: june 6

in my garden :: june 6

in my garden :: june 6

in my garden :: june 6

in my garden :: june 6

in my garden :: june 6

in my garden :: june 6

The nasturtium laced with raindrops made my morning….. so beautiful! They are almost big enough to start weaving through the fencing. My first nasturtium were grown in buckets on the side of our porch in Alaska….. by the end of the summer they were a beautiful tangled mass of flowers on each side. On of my favorite garden memories.

The lettuce & arugula are ready for picking, the squash are coming up, and the herbs are starting to really look nice. Everything in here is from seed, so it's all been a wait and see. I thought for sure I'd planted the sweet-peas too deep when they didn't appear after two weeks…. but I think they just needed a little warmth. They all popped up in the last week, intermixed with the nasturtium.

We harvested our first bundle of radishes. I inter-planted those with the beets. They are heavily shading the beets right now, but they'll all be pulled up within the next week, so the beets will have plenty of room in no time at all. The blossoms are forming on the tomatoes and peppers! The first flower on the pepper plant opened this week. Green is lovely, but blossoms always get me excited.

My calendula sprouted up in record time. It's amazing how quickly the seeds germinate in late spring vs. early spring. I'm so excited about having a patch of calendula for herbal remedies. Now just to find the time to get that chamomile patch planted before we head to Alaska……

The peppermint is doing nicely in it's pot. I nibble on it as I wander the garden. I'm keeping it in that bucket so it doesn't take over the garden. I think I'll have to thin the roots this fall so it doesn't get root bound. And we have our first raspberry blossoms coming along! The raspberry row is over next the bees, I'm pretty sure berries might be the thing I am most excited about on this little homestead of ours….

Tell me what's growing in your garden & leave a link if your taking notes as well…..

Happy Friday to you~~

xo,

s