Thursday, June 18, 2015


20 pounds of potatoes is what we pulled from the ground a few days ago. Doesn't sound like much, but we were clearing a bed for more planting and had left these in for the fun of it. Never expected so much and they were so good in green chile sauce and a roast. Great enchilladas.

Monday, March 16, 2015

We've Started Planting--Update

In the two months since the last post we have been moving slowly forward. We are still sharecropping across the street, though with some modifications. The family, while grieving for their mother, has made it clear that they want us to continue gardening in their back yard. There have been some changes as a grandson has moved into an RV trailer in the yard. There are more dogs now at the house and in fairness to them and the family we have given up some marginal beds. The beds were always a struggle as it was, so this will be helpful to them and less work for us.

We have planted potatoes and tomatoes in the last week. The weather has been warm and there is little chance more rain or cold will come soon. We would like the rain though. These are the first beds we have planted across the street using the our version of the no-till method. The beds were not dug in with compost as in the past. A layer of the chicken bedding was layered across the bed. This is from the chicken yard and is straw, green waste and manure that has been building over the winter. Instead of raking the bedding out and putting it in the compost pile, we added more hay or straw to the mix and let the chickens scratch and eat and distribute the material evenly. We've built up 4-6 inches of this material. We dig it out in layers and spread it over the beds, not disturbing the planting bed. We then dig a small hole in the beds and plant the potato or tomato disturbing the bed as little as possible. After the planting is finished, straw is spread over the bed as a top dressing. Cages are placed around the tomato plants. Next year or season the same protocol will be followed and eventually the bed will have the manure filled compost worked into the soil by worms and other critters.

This is our first time no-tilling with produce, though we started no-tilling around our fruit trees last year. We did a variation with our corn experiment last summer, but it was just the straw to help retain water and keep down weeds. The soil around the trees and under the wood chip mulch is soft and moist and full of worms.

Another aspect of the no-till is our approach to weeds. We are not worrying about them as much. If you look to nature, all ground eventually is covered with vegetation or duff. Nature strives to grow something. Weeds are the first things to grow many times. We are trying to grow something, crops, and are using duff in the form of straw or wood chips to recreate this version of nature.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

The sharecropping garden across the street has taken a bit of a back seat with my surgery. Maureen again has been working there and did some planting before the surgery. She is harvesting some things like potatoes. Some of the cauliflower is up and growing while some is just staying the same. Overall it somewhat typical of our winter garden there.

The biggest and saddest news is Joyce the homeowner passed away. It was expected, but still hard. Her daughter has moved in and the family still wants us to garden and we are still trying to get them to take more of the produce. Maureen planted for the winter and we are still working the yard, but things may change as the family settles in to the house.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

20 August 2014

Another update with no pictures. We picked beans for dinner and freezing from the third bed last night. Great beans.

The last of the corn, though there are a few ears still on the stalks. These all went to the chickens as they are underdeveloped in a variety of ways. Still a success in my mind.

The aphids are getting to the squash with few ladybugs in sight. Last night Maureen released the last of the second batch of the little orange critters. We let them go too late it seems.

We also picked some Bell peppers.

Yard is still producing, though always some weirdness in the crops.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Garden Update

No pictures, just some thoughts. The corn has been a success in that we have been eating the corn as well as the chickens. The last count I heard was 65 ears and counting. We've picked some since then. The second bed hasn't done as well as the first, but it is another variety.

We put a few thousand lady bugs on the squash and they left for some other place. We'll try again soon.

The Anaheim peppers are still producing, even when covered with the squash plants. Maureen has made two batches of Pico do Gallo salsa. This year the Anaheims seem to be a bit hotter than years past. Still good salsa.

The last set of beans are up and growing well, but not ready for picking.

We have three water melon and have picked four cantaloupe. Not being a cantaloupe eater I can't tell you of their quality, but Maureen isn't complaining.

I'll try to get some pictures up soon.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Update on the Sharecropper Garden

Thought it was time to show the progress of the garden across the street. As usual, some successes and some not so successful. These are the good shots. I'm weeding in the background, but the green beans growing are the third of four beds planted this summer. Needs a bit of weeding care, but more food to come.

This is just to the west of the last picture and shows from the bottom watermelon, squash trying to suffocate pepper plants, and beans going to seed. The dry looking plant near the center is an artichoke waiting for next year. The O'Henry peach is in the back propped up to prevent limb breakage.

I'm standing between the corn beds. On the right is the first bed we planted and the left has the second bed that was planted two to three weeks later. We did pick our first ears of corn.  They could have waited a few days, but it looks like we will have more to come and we couldn't wait. (And we were hungry that night.)

One of two watermelon growing. The watermelon this year is going to be a race between growth and the aphids. Maybe a midseason/trade deadline deal for some ladybugs will help us.

And the always refreshing fruits of our efforts. The corn is ours. The lettuce for the salad was from the farmer's market. The goats milk used for the dressing was from our farm friends. The salad is topped with our green peppers, zucchini, hard boiled eggs and cracklins from the lard rendering process.

The next thing to do is make the wine to go along with the meal.  Our last wine attempt made good vinegar.

Friday, July 4, 2014

It's Been a While

It's been over a year and a half for a post about our across the street gardening adventure. It has been frustrating at times, but slow progress is being made. The pictures are a snapshot of where we are now, and not a full picture. The corn is a new attempt. So far much better than expected, and if nothing else it will become chicken feed. Just as a note, we are trying a new approach to the walkways. With our recent tree felling and trimming projects at home, we ask for the shredded remains from the tree people.  They gladly oblige saving them a trip to recycling. The chipped trees and leaves make a mulch for both the walkways and some of the beds. We'll see how this works out. The open bed just in front of the corn has just been planted with beans.


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Still Here. . .

. . .But not posting much. What will follow may be construed as excuses or reasons.  Take your pick.  Just some thoughts on the Suburban Sharecropping/urban growing/turkey raising experience.

I've been thinking of the gardens, probably because I haven't been able to be in them much.  Maureen has been doing the Lion's share of the work, tho I did help with the weeding.  The bermuda and weeds had gotten out of hand and we had to resort to a herbicide (for the first time and just in the walkways) and a lot of back-breaking work to clean the beds.  It is now a much better looking garden. Sorry no pictures at this time, and no 'before' pics because it was just plain depressing there for awhile and we both avoided even going over there....which just compounded the problem. Benign neglect makes for much weeds.

Another project has been the patch of grass that will be a fruit tree bed in the future.  We had removed all of our grass in our yard to put in vegetable gardens.  This was a dirt area the dogs liked to lay in and play in, so we thought to make it a bit more presentable for us and comfortable for them.

You can see by the progression of the pictures what happened.  I don't have pictures of the final result.  But between dog urine and thinking sod was a chew toy, you can guess the result.  We even sodded it again for Betty's memorial and it looks worse than ever.  Lesson learned and onto Plan C.

After last year's turkey harvest, we bought a frozen bird this year.  Not that we won't try that again; we just didn't plan ahead. Soup, our turkey hen, has become too big and tough to harvest, so for now she is guarding the chicken hens. We also heard that there is something in the turkey manure that is beneficial to chickens and a preventative for some disease.  Still looking into that. (edited by Maureen ~ Steve is putting off harvesting 'Soup' because he has become attached to her benefits to the other birds might just be rationalizations.)

That's Soup on the left.  She got into the nesting box and couldn't get out...often.  We eventually had to block the bottom two boxes to prevent another stuck turkey.

We had a pretty good garden harvest this fall. After a horrible tomato season last year, this year was pretty good.  Maureen canned up quite a bit of tomato sauce, spaghetti sauce, catsup and Rotel.  The asparagus will have it's first full harvest this year and is being anticipated with glee. The winter garden is in and growing, except for the plants that aren't.  Every year we have about a 25% rate of unsuccessful plantings.  By that I mean, they don't die, they just sit in a kind of suspended animation.  We put them in and while most around them get bigger (aka GROW) these little buggers just sit there....not dying, but definitely not growing.  Very weird.  We have gardened for over 20 years and have yet to figure out what causes this or what to do about it.  Our solution....plant 25% more seedlings than we will need.  Problem solved. 

A decision we are mulling over now is taking out the pecan tree in the back yard at our house.  This tree was a sapling when we moved in.  It is now over 50' tall and 14" thick at the base.Besides starting to push against our water main, it is a mess....24/7.  One season it drops allergy causing "flowers" and another it's the gooey aphid sap that sticks to everything, on top of leaves that seem to multiply and drop for months.  The shade is nice in the late afternoon summer, but the neighbor has an oak tree that duplicates much of the shade. That same shade though limits what can be grown in that section of the garden.  The nuts are wonderful; but a pain to extract from the shells.  The short story is we are considering taking it out.  The wood would be used for BBQ and a special woodworking project, but will be difficult to cut down because of the tight quarters.  Always a new adventure on the horizon.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

P.S. Turkey Thoughts

After the harvest of our 40+ pound turkey I have an observation that should be obvious, but just became evident. The remaining chickens and turkey are sure eating less food. I used to give them two 1kg. containers of food a day. Without Dinner, it is now one container and some days there is some left in the feeder.

No wonder he was 40 pounds dressed out.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Our Thankful Turkey Harvest

This post is a summary of our turkey slaughter. Some of the pictures will be graphic, so this is a warning to the squeamish.

This is our turkey just before the processing.

We chose to hang the turkey. It did calm the bird, but after cutting the jugular veins there was one burst of wing flapping, and then a settling down.

The next few pictures are of the process of plucking the bird. We heated two pots of water and added them to some cold water in the red plastic tub. We didn't have a pot big enough, so the tub was used. The water should be warm, not hot. We read 160 degrees, but we didn't check on ours.

After waiting a bit over a minute the turkey was transferred to the wheelbarrow to begin the plucking. We had seen the wheelbarrow idea online and it did help. Being in the wheelbarrow allowed more than one person to pluck at the same time.

After most of the plucking was done, we hung the bird up again. We were tired of bending over to get to the feathers.

The next step was the eviscerating and cleaning of the cavity. We had a bucket with two trash bags to catch the organs, which this year we decided to discard. Care must be taken at both ends. The incision at the bottom end shouldn't be too deep to avoid cutting the intestines. It was fascinating to have most of the organs almost fall out once the hole was big enough.

A piece of plywood was used as a cutting table. Formica would have been better because plenty of water was used to wash the carcass, constantly.

We know what this is. . .

. . .But what are these?

The finished product. The pan weighs 4 pounds, so the final weight was 40 pounds. As a side note, we didn't have a pan big enough to cook the bird, so we cut it in half and froze one part. Also in hindsight we found out we could have cooked the bird at the full 40 pounds with the proper pan. It just would have taken 7+ hours. Has anyone smoked a turkey before?

After thinking about the event and writing this post, some final thoughts came to mind. Overall the process wasn't as daunting as it was imagined to be. With little slaughtering under our belts before, there was some apprehension before starting. Now, afterwards, it doesn't seem too hard, just a bit of work. The chickens look to be much easier now.

Some thoughts about the past and the future came to mind. Seems like slaughtering is natural and normal for meat eaters. I could imagine our grandparents doing this. We could also see having to do this in the future if food becomes scarce or questionable healthwise. Being connected to our food source in a hands-on manner has to be better for us in the long run.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


...lots of them:)

Our carrot bed is full and the weather is miserable, so I decided to heat up the kitchen canning some carrots...ugh.

I picked not quite half the bed and filled the wheelbarrow...

...and after cleaning and discarding the tops, we had 25lbs. worth...nice!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Info on the Dreaded Wilts

I started to respond in the comment section to several questions from Barefeet in the Kitchen and then decided my response was getting a bit long-winded for that venue.

I should qualify this advice by admitting that we are not experts in this area but have done a LOT of research and asked a lot of questions....and would welcome any contribution from gardeners who have had experience with these diseases.

We've examined our plants and have determined that the probably cause is one of the Wilts, Fusarium or Verticillium. These fungus were probably in the soil for some time but have been 'triggered' into action by the wet spring. They are similar to the fungus that causes 'damping off' and some of the same preventative measures apply. Unfortunately, sterilizing an entire gardens worth of soil is not feasible so we are choosing to do the following...

2. Pulled out the plants that were near death and those should not be thrown in the compost pile because the fungus can survive unless subjected to intense heat. (Which means it might die in the valley but you'd be taking a chance.)We chose to leave
a lot of the plants in the ground in the hope of harvesting the tomatoes, especially in the beds where they all looked sick anyway.

3. Next year, plant resistant varieties or ones that have shown resistance this year. One of the heirlooms, Chico, looks lush and healthy despite being in a bed where even the Early Girls are suffering.

Here are some helpful excerpts from our Web searches ~

Fusarium wilt and Fusarium crown rot symptoms begin as yellowing of older leaves. With Fusarium crown rot, the leaves often turn brown or black and eventually wilt. With Fusarium wilt, the yellow leaves turn downward and droop.Fusarium oxysporum, the cause of both diseases, is a common tomato fungus that lives in the plant's vascular system, which carries water from the roots to the leaves. To see if either of these diseases is present:

  • Check watering practices. Both over- and underwatering can mimic disease symptoms.
  • Check the roots. Discolored roots indicate root rot.
  • Cut the lower or main stem and look inside at the vascular tissue. Fusarium wilt causes a dark brown discoloration within the vascular tissue. Fusarium crown rot causes a rot or canker at the base of the stem and possibly a root rot. (We found when we cut open the stems of infected plants the entire diameter was brown.)

Most tomato seeds or transplants are labeled with a code such as "VFN," "VFNA," "VFNT," etc. This indicates that the plants are resistant to Verticillium wilt (V), Fusarium wilt (F), southern root-knot nematode (N), early blight (A), or tobacco (tomato) mosaic virus (T). Do not plant tomatoes, potatoes or eggplant in the affected area for two or three years.

And on another site~

The first line of defense against wilt is to use disease-free seedlings. This avoids introducing wilt fungi into the garden. Remove and destroy wilted plants and all debris of tomato and other susceptible crops at the end of the growing season. Rotate tomato-growing areas, growing tomatoes in the same part of the garden only once in four years. The benefit of rotation is less with wilts than with other diseases since both wilt fungi survive for years in the soil and the Verticillium fungus attacks many different crops. Fungicides for control of leaf blights have no effect on the wilt diseases, which are internal infections. Once soil is infested and further rotation impossible, the only possible management practice is use of resistant varieties.

Sunday, July 17, 2011


It's not the only reason I haven't posted in quite a while, but the Fusarium/Verticillium wilt that has decimated our tomatoes this year has definitely played a part in my reluctance to show 'garden progress' at this point in the summer.
We think it's a combination of the wet spring, heirlooms that were more susceptible to the diseases and ground that went untouched for 20 years (the destruction is primarily in our shared garden). Whatever the cause, it has been a frustrating experience, but hopefully we are learning something in the process. I will post more pics in the next couple of days, if only to help others who are dealing with similar issues...
...I feel your pain.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

You Decide

There is a controversy in Oak Park, Michigan over a vegetable garden in the front yard of a family trying to feed itself and become a bit more sustainable in troubling times. Above is the picture of the garden. Here is a news piece on the story.

This is a defense by a recent law school grad that formerly lived in Oak Park and the daughter of a Oak Park city employee....and the rebuttal by Julie Bass (whose tale can be followed on the blog Oak Park Hates Veggies).

This article is a commentary on lawns.

Seems to me Oak Park may one of the few places in the United States that hasn't had it's citizens affected by the Recession if they can worry about vegies in the front yard.

Monday, May 23, 2011

We Will Have Beans this Summer

I have an excuse for not writing for awhile...and it's a good one....I've been busy.

Here are the beans that escaped the marauding herds of voracious pill bugs (rolly pollys, sow bugs...whatever...those little guys can eat!). I've replanted this spot twice and another one 3 times (it is now the pumpkin bed).

Up against the fence in this same bed are the transplanted olallieberries that a friend gave us this winter. I'm assuming the harvest will improve in the coming years:)

Edit~ I was asked what an olallieberry was (we've always just considered them a blackberry) and I found this definition.
Genetically, an Olallieberry is approximately two-thirds Blackberry and one-third European Red Raspberry. The Olallieberry was developed in 1949 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture at Oregon State University by crossing a Loganberry with a Youngberry. While primarily developed in Oregon, it has never been very productive there and is primarily grown in California. Because the olallieberry has blackberry on both sides of its parentage, it exhibits many of the same flavor characteristics of the blackberry. However, olallieberries are much larger in size and generally are sweeter than blackberries grown under the same conditions.

...thanks for asking Barefeet :)