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Dirt rich

    Summer U-Pick Garden

    The 2017 U-Pick Summer Garden will start in mid-June…exact date to be determined by Mother Nature.  We’ve had a huge amount of rain this Spring along with a roller coaster ride of temperature variation which has affected the growth of the veggies and berries.  We will announce the opening date as we approach mid-June.  Here are the Vegetables and Berries we will have available (at different times) throughout the season of mid-June to August:

    Tomatoes (slicer, Roma, grape)
    Yellow Squash
    Zucchini
    Green Beans
    Purple Hull Peas
    Cabbage
    Broccoli
    Kale
    Lettuce (limited)
    Radishes (limited)
    Onions
    Sweet Corn
    Blueberries
    Blackberries

    Plums
    Herbs (dill, basil, lemon basil, thyme, rosemary, cilantro, oregano, sage, feverfew, comfrey, garlic, lemon balm, mint, chocolate mint)
    Sunflowers, Cosmos, Zinnias for bouquets

    Other items we sell at the farm:
    Honey (100% local, raw, 1 lb jars)
    Muscadine Grape Jelly
    Sourdough Bread
    Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls
    Zucchini Bread
    Dirt Rich” our book about sustainable living
    “Dirt Rich Kids”  coloring book with sustainable topics
    Paintings from Local Artists and Garden Art

    Also check out our Sustainable Topic Classes under the “Events” tab on this website.  Canning, Beekeeping, Grow Your Own Medicine Chest, Plant Based Food Cooking Classes are only a few of the fascinating subjects covered.
     

     

    Planting Tomatoes

    We are SO READY for HOME GROWN TOMATOES!  It’s been a long winter and cardboard tasting tomatoes are now the bane of our existence…  We’re ready for some delicious, juicy, lip smacking, HOME GROWN TOMATOES that we can slice thick and eat on a BLT or a good ole mater sandwich with mayo…nothing better!  And don’t forget those outrageously good fried green tomatoes because you just can’t wait on the ripe ones.  But first we’ve got to get those plants in the ground, so we can enjoy the fruit of our labor…pun intended.

    Heirloom variety tomatoes – best flavor

    There are several ways to plant tomatoes and all of them place most of the plant under the soil.  The deeper you plant  the stem, the more roots will be formed and the stronger the plant will be.  Here are the two ways we plant our tomato plants:

    1.  Dig as deep a hole as possible so that all of the root and most of the stem are underground.

    2.  Dig a trench (like water for a small water pipe) horizontally in the ground and then bury the root and most of the stem in the ditch, leaving only the top of the plant showing above the soil.  The plant will straighten up with the sun and all of the stem will grow additional roots to make it stronger. These two methods will ensure a stronger plant because the root system will be more developed and stronger

    Here is a video by MHP Gardener who gives some tips on trenching tomato plants:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GDA4FuOosXw

    Tomato Terminology….
    Do you know what the term “determinate” tomato plant means?  Determinate tomatoes grow to a specific height and are usually developed from a hybrid seed.

    Determinate Tomatoes

    An “indeterminate” tomato plant will grow and grow and grow to an undetermined height and is often of the heirloom variety.

    Indeterminate Tomatoes

    Want to learn more about sustainable living and growing your own healthy food?  Follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/stoneycreekfarmtennessee/

     

     

    Learn How To Live a Simple, Sustainable Life

    What the purpose of the Sustainable Living Farm Conference?

    To show people how to live with Less Stress and More Joy.  Freedom from the “rat race” can be achieved by learning the benefits of sustainable living, growing your own healthy food,
    and creating a simpler life while saving thousand$. 

    The 2017 Sustainable Farm Conference will include topics on:
    sustainable housing
    homesteading
    sources of farm income
    growing natural, healthy food (without pesticides)
    preserving and fermenting food
    farm animals (their purpose)
    helping pollinators and beneficial insects thrive on your farm
    composting and soil testing
    marketing your farm
    agricultural green belt
    networking opportunities
    working with a debt free operation
    temporary greenhouse production

    The Funderburk’s have spent 12 years developing their dream, a small sustainable farm, that produces six different income streams. Their mission revolves around teaching individuals and families to grow their own healthy food, by renting garden plots and offering a summer U-Pick Garden to the community. They also host Educational Seminars, farm tours, and have a venue for local events/parties.

    Formerly in corporate sales for a multimillion dollar company, Leigh spends her days managing their 15 acre farm in beautiful Franklin, TN. Olin has been in the construction business for over 30+ years and working toward his eventual retirement.

    The One Day Conference schedule is as follows:
    9:30 am – arrival and introductions
    10:00 am to 12 noon – farm tour with exhibits on greenhouse/garden production, and farm animals
    12:00 noon to 1:00 pm – Farm to Table Lunch and networking
    1:00 to 2:30 pm – income sources and marketing your dream
    2:30 to 4 pm – booth round table discussions on bees, herbs, farm equipment and more

    In addition to the conference, each attendee/couple will receive a  free copy of “Dirt Rich“, the Funderburk’s  book on Sustainable Farm Living, and a free download of their online course “Dirt Rich, Sustainable Farm Living“.  

       
    Cost $97 per person or $147 per couple which includes lunch and all conference materials. Call/text 615-591-0015 or e-mail stoneycreekfarmtennessee@gmail.com for more information.

    To register, choose individual or couple and click the “add to cart” button below:

    Individual or couple

     



     

    How to Plant Seeds for the Garden

    It’s not rocket science, but you do have to follow the directions on the seed packet…for instance: Depth to sow = 1/2″  which means to put the seed about a half an inch under the top of the soil.  The easiest way to make sure you are getting the correct depth is to use a ruler the first few times you plant the seeds.  Place the seed on top of the soil and use the top of the ruler to push it down into the soil to the correct depth.

    In general, you will find that the larger the seed is, the deeper it will go in the soil and the smaller the seed is, the reverse is true.  Herb seeds are famous for being extremely small and most of the time, I sow them by sprinkling the tiny seeds on top of the soil and then watering them.  The seeds are so tiny that they will settle into the soil from watering.  If a seed is sown too deep, it may not germinate properly and then deteriorate before it has a chance to thrive above ground.

    Seeds will need somewhere between 65-80 degrees temperature to germinate (depending on the seed), so starting them indoors near a window sill will work.  We build a temporary greenhouse each year that house hundreds of plants for our U-Pick Garden until the April 15th (last) frost date and then we transplant them into the ground. In the picture below we have over 1,000 seeds planted just on the left hand side of the greenhouse.  The green trays have 108 cells and the black trays have 72 cells.  We planted 5 varieties of tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage, and marigolds.  On the other side of the greenhouse (not pictured) are peppers and many varieties of herbs. Special thanks go to our volunteer interns Sarah Cho and Kendall Pinkston for all their help this week!!!

    Plants need three things to survive:  nutrient rich soil, water and air.  Using a good potting soil will get your seeds off to a good start.  I like to use very small cells to plant my seeds and then transplant to larger containers  after they have germinated and grow to about 1-2 inches tall (depending on the plant).

    You want to keep your cells/trays moist but not wet and let them dry out in between.  If your soil is too moist it can create mildew and mold which is a terrible environment for your new plants.  If your soil is too dry, your seeds will not germinate…a fine line indeed!

    Here are Broccoli seedlings that have  popped up after 3 days.  Seeds have different germination times, so check your packet for all the info.

    Olin and Alaina Knott (MTSU Intern) after they built our temporary greenhouse this year.  We reuse materials for several years which saves on cost.

    Happy Planting!

     

      How to Test Your Garden Soil

      Yes, it’s almost gardening time and with all this warm weather, we are all getting very impatient!  But before you test your garden soil, remember to look at a reliable website for the last frost date for your area before you plant!  I personally like the Old Farmer’s Almanac Site, but there are several others:

      http://www.almanac.com/content/frost-chart-united-states

      Soil testing:

      Your state’s Ag extension document will tell you how to collect the proper soil samples from your soil, as well as what tests they will do for a standard fee.  For more detailed information see the following site for UT Agriculture Extension Service for soil testing:

      https://ag.tennessee.edu/spp/Pages/soiltesting.aspx

      There are two ways to test the soil in TN: by acreage or per 100 feet of garden space for a garden an acre or less. We recommend that you test by 100 feet, unless you have many acres and multiple large crops.   In Tennessee, the UT Ag Extension tells us to take ten samples six inches deep around your garden. Place in a five gallon bucket, mix it really well, then take a subsample after its mixed up, take it to your lab, and they will test it for you.

      Standard soil tests provide information on the levels of phosphorus and potassium/potash in your soil. The report will typically include recommendations for improving soil fertility, and you can ask to have the recommendations focus on organic solutions.

      The UT Ag Extension soil-testing document says: “The Basic soil test includes soil pH, buffer value, phosphorus, potassium, calcium and magnesium all for the price of $7.00 per sample. The Basic Plus soil test is all the above with zinc, manganese, iron, copper, sodium and boron for $15.00. Pre-side dress nitrate (PSNT), Sulfate Sulfur (NH4OAc), organic matter and soluble salts is also offered.  Soil test nutrients (Basic and Basic Plus) are extracted using Mehlich 1 and are designed for mineral, inorganic soils thus not suitable for bark or peat-based mixes.

      If your growing material is highly organic, a container media analysis is recommended.  The Container Media Test is mainly useful to greenhouse growers in determining fertility of soil-less mixtures. Turnaround is typically 1 to 2 business days (for routine Basic or Plus) and results are routinely mailed but can be e-mailed or faxed.   Test results are used to formulate research-based, cost effective lime and fertilizer recommendations specific to the type of crop or plant and yield desired. To assist growers with their soil fertility needs, Extension county agents are available statewide to help with any management decisions related to soil test recommendations.”

      Side note:  On the top right hand side of your soil test report is the person in charge of the Department of Testing and their contact information.  They are VERY HELPFUL and will explain the report to you.  When you receive your first report, it may seem a little like a foreign language…so don’t hesitate to call.  

      When to Test Your Soil

      For perennial crops – orchards, pasture, Christmas trees, alfalfa, grass seed, and so on, you should test your soil before planting (preferably at least several months before), so that you have time to lime the soil and have it mix with the existing soil before planting your crop.   Limestone reacts slowly with the soil, so it’s important when adding lime to your oil to leave enough lead-time before planting.   For annual crops, such as vegetables, test your soil every spring before planting for the season.

      Happy Gardening!!!

      For more tips on gardening follow us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/stoneycreekfarmtennessee/
      and Pinterest (‘For the Garden’) https://www.pinterest.com/leighfunderburk/

       

       

       

        “Chickens have Teenagers Too…

        Thank Goodness They Grow Up!”

        Baby Chickens are so cute and sweet and loveable…and then…they start looking gangly, getting too big for their small coop, start wrestling and fighting for dominance, stop behaving, eating you out of house and home….sound familiar? Yes, they are now teenagers. You have to find a bigger space for them and switch their food from chick food to grower/finisher food. They don’t need heat lamps because they are making their own heat and have lots of feathers to keep them warm.

        Chicken Teenagers

        As your Chicken Teens begin to age they love to check out grassy spaces, so we us like to use a chicken tractor. Chicken tractors are small coops with wheels, which make it easy to move around once they eat the grass underneath the coop.

        Chicken Tractor

        Its only 4-5 months from hatchlings to egg laying…so a proper coop should be researched during the teenage weeks. How big a coop depends on how many chickens you want to house. You will need one nest for every 4 hens. In our coop, we have 8 nests, so technically, we could house 32 hens, but we only have about 18-20.

        Our Stoney Creek Chicken Coop

        Chickens also need free range area or a fenced in yard to roam around in that is safe from predators. We have hawks which nest on our property, so we have a 6 ft. high fenced enclosure of 300 square feet with netting on top to prevent hawks or other predators (raccoons, mink, etc.) from entering.

        Nest boxes can be filled with hay, straw, indoor, outdoor carpet, and pine shavings, but my personal favorite is the plastic mats bought from any farm store or hatchery catalog (Murray McMurray is the one we use) that you simply spray off to clean. The mats last us about 5 years….very durable. The mats will keep eggs from breaking when multiple hens go in and out of the box laying and tends to keep the eggs somewhat cleaner too.

        Chicken Nesting Mat

        Now the Chickens Can Lay Eggs!

        So now you are ready for egg laying! Be sure to upgrade their food to layer feed, because it has extra ingredients to help with producing better egg shells. It also does not hurt to add some oyster shell to their diet, since that will make stronger egg shells. Some people put a fake egg in the box to encourage production at first…they swear it works. Some of their first eggs may be very small…that usually means there is no yolk…don’t worry that is normal. Some of the beginning eggs may be EXTRA LARGE…don’t worry, those are twin yolks.

        Now that you are an old hand at raising chickens and gathering all the eggs, you have to start thinking about the future… These hens will lay continuously for 50-60 weeks at full speed (260 – 280 eggs annually per chicken) and then they will go through what’s called “The Molt”. Molting begins at about 60 weeks of laying and the chickens will start losing their feathers (not all, just quite a few). Their bodies will start to make new pin feathers and will use all of their body energy to do that instead of laying eggs…so egg production goes down to about half speed. The Molt lasts about 4-6 weeks and by the end of it they will start laying better, but never at top speed again. This is usually the time period that are planning for by ordering new chicks which should be about ready to lay eggs by the time the molt happens. We then humanely slaughter the molting hens and rooster for the freezer. Since these are mainly egg laying chickens, they do not have a lot of meat, so we consider them stewing chickens for chicken and dumplings, soups and pot pies.

        So goes the sustainable circle of life for our chickens.

        If you would like to learn more about Farm Animals and Sustainable Farm Living, check out our book, “Dirt Rich” available on Amazon, Kindle and www.stoneycreek.farm

        Best Sustainable Farm Animal – Chickens

        We are now in week 6 of our 2017 Sustainable Living Topics and it’s time to start talking about farm animals.  Chickens are definitely one of my favorites and provide multiple resources for your (urban) farmstead at a minimal cost: 1. Eggs provide food high in protein 2. Chicken manure (properly composted) provides some of the best organic material for gardens 3. Chickens provide pest control by eating bugs from yards and gardens 4. Chicken meat is high in protein 5. Chicken eggs provide a source of income…everyone wants farm fresh eggs and don’t mind paying a premium for them 6. Chickens provide enjoyment…they are so fun to watch, pet and feed!

        So how do you get started?  That depends on the area you have available for your birds…  If you have a backyard in an HOA or live in the city, then you will need to make sure your HOA rules or city ordinances allow chickens (and how many).  None will allow roosters, because of the noise factor (crowing at 2 am).  Otherwise, you can have a rooster, but be aware that roosters really do crow at really weird hours and you don’t need a rooster unless you want to fertilize eggs for hatching baby chicks. We do not hatch our own eggs; we order our baby chicks from Murray McMurray Hatchery (https://www.mcmurrayhatchery.com )…and have for years.  McMurray guarantees their baby chicks just in case something happens during shipment by the Post Office.  In all the many years that we have used McMurray, we have never had to use the guarantee policy until recently.  We ordered 30 chicks a few weeks ago and they must have gotten cold in delivery or jostled badly, because we had 7 that did not make it.  McMurray credited us for these poor baby chicks…no questions asked.  They have superior customer service, so as you can tell, we highly recommend them (and this is not a paid or solicited advertisement from them).  They are just good business folks. The chicks come in a well ventilated box marked ‘fragile’ and ‘this side up’ and are shipped overnight.  When we order the chicks we do order them to be vaccinated for coccidiosis because we continue to raise them in the same area year to year, but that is a personal preference.

        They keep each other warm with their body heat and they hatchery provides come gel food in the bottom of the box to sustain them until they make it to their new home. Once the chicks get to their new home, you will need to have a waterer, feeder and a heat lamp that will keep the chicks at least 95-100  degrees.  You can reduce the temperature by 5 degrees after the 1st week and thereafter.  It is extremely important that the new chicks are kept warm the first couple of weeks because they do not tolerate cold at all.

        If new chicks are stressed, occasionally, you will see something called ‘pasty butt’.  The vent (butt) will get clogged with poop, turn brown and cake on, which eventually doesn’t allow for little gal/guy to poop very well.  Just as you would clean your own baby’s bottom, you simply use a wet warm cloth to clean off the caked on poop, so that it doesn’t cause problems for the little one later on.  Be sure to be gentle…they are already stressed.  Afterwards, I hold them for a minute and stroke their back to make them feel safe, and put them under the lamp for their little butts to dry.  Ok, maybe I nurture a little too much…. Now, you just play with them and watch them grow.  The more time you can spend with them, the more gentle they will be.  I usually try to feed them out of my hand and hold them at least a few times a week.  If you have the time, it’s well worth the effort. There are many breeds to choose from and it depends on what the purpose is for the farmstead.  If you want to raise chickens solely for meat, there are meat birds like Jumbo Cornish X Rocks, or Red Ranger Broiler.  If you are wanting to raise them for eggs and meat (combination), then the Delaware breed may work for you.   For strictly egg layers you may want Rhode Island Reds or the Pearl White Leghorn. If you are like us and want to raise your farmstead birds for mainly eggs (and end of life stewing chickens) then we suggest a sex link breed called Red Star, which is considered the best brown egg layer of all the breeds.

        Red Star Hen

        A sex link chicken is one that can be identified when hatched whether it is a male or female bird.  For instance, the female Red Star has a reddish tint and the male is yellow/white.  This identification allows for an exact number of hens to be ordered rather than guessing whether it will be a rooster or hen.  On a typical order of Rhode Island Reds I would get at least 3 roosters, so we would have to either slaughter or give away the other 2 roosters…because you only need one for 20-30 hens.

        Next week we will cover more on their Life Cycle:  “Chickens have Teenagers Too…Thank Goodness They Grow Up!”

        If you would like to learn more about Farm Animals and Sustainable Farm Living, check out our book, “Dirt Rich”  available on Amazon, Kindle and www.stoneycreek.farm

         

         

          Waste Not, Want Not

          I can’t tell you how many times while growing up my mom said to me, “waste not, want not“, whenever I didn’t finish all the food on my plate.  She didn’t want me to overeat…she just wanted me to learn not to put more food on my plate than I could eat…so I didn’t waste food.  And her mantra lives on…through me…she’d be proud!

          Here are 7  ‘Easy to Do’ Tips that can help you eliminate some of the food waste that goes on in your family refrigerator and pantry every week…hope this helps you:

          Tip#1  Leftover Fruit
          Freeze it.  Yes that’s right, fresh fruit… put it in a freezer container and freeze it (up to a few months) to use in smoothies, cook and puree to add to muffins or cakes, or use to ice drinks/tea/wine/sangria.  Freeze whole ripe bananas to use for smoothies and banana bread.

          Tip#2  Cereal the kids won’t eat
          You thought they would eat it.  The image on the box looked really good (high in fiber, double good) and it had a surprise toy…oh well.  Most cereals can be made into a breakfast/snack bar with some added chocolate chips.  Here is a standard recipe that works for a lot of cereals, but you might have to adjust some of the ingredients to suit the texture of the cereal.
          2 Cups Cereal
          1/3 Cup plus 1 Tbsp Peanut Butter
          1/3 Cup plus 1 Tbsp Honey
          Line a 9″ x 11″ with parchment paper.  Heat peanut butter and honey until melted, then mix well with the cereal, pour into pan and flatten.  Place in fridge for about 30 minutes to harden.

          Tip #3  Salad Greens that are about to go out of date
          Sauté them in Olive Oil with a little bit of garlic. Chefs do it all the time.  Romaine, Chard, Kale and all types of greens taste wonderful when they are lightly sautéed .  For a little different flavor, add a little red wine vinegar at the end, right before serving.

          Tip #4   Leftovers
          Designate one night each week as “Leftovers Night” to  help deplete waste in the refrigerator and keep your inventory manageable.  If the fridge gets too cluttered, then it’s hard to determine how old it is, so you end up with more wasted food.  Another great tip is using masking tape and marking the date  and description on the package.  Also, immediately after dinner, package lunch size portions of leftovers to save money instead of eating lunch at a restaurant

          Tip#5  Repurpose Meals
          Some meals are easier than others to repurpose, so that the family does not feel that they are eating leftovers a couple of days in a row.  Here are some examples I use on a regular basis:
          Baked Rosemary Chicken (first night), Chicken Alfredo (second night), Chicken Salad or homemade Chicken and Rice Soup (for lunches)
          Crock Pot Chili (first night), Chili nachos with all the fixings (second night)
          Spaghetti with Meatballs (first night), Meatball Subs (second night), baked spaghetti with Ricotta Cheese (third night)
          Sirloin Steak (first night), Black and Blue Steak Salad (second night)

          Tip#6  Stale Bread
          Simply add a little olive oil and Italian Seasoning to any sliced bread, cut into small squares and bake on a cookie sheet at 200 degrees f0r approx. 2 hours and you will have some very tasty croutons.  Thinly sliced cheese melted on toasted stale bread can compliment most any meal, especially a tomato basil soup.

          Tip#7   Preserving – Canning or Freezing
          If you have veggies or fruit that will not get eaten before they ruin, you always have the option of making a jelly or jam from the fruit and  blanching/freezing veggies to use at a later date.  If I have too many onions or peppers, I might dice them up and put them in the freezer to use in cooking (up to 3 months).  I always freeze unused fresh basil to use at a later date, because it is so easy to crush into the recipes.

          Feel free to share any Sustainable Living Ideas that you would like covered in our weekly posts.   Just send me a note at stoneycreekfarmtennessee@gmail.com.
          Thank You!  Leigh

          P.S. Sign up for our e-mail list to receive Sustainable Living Information each week at http://www.stoneycreek.farm.

           

          Start 2017 with a Simple, Sustainable Life

          Over the past 11 years, Olin and I have changed our lives a little at a time by pairing down our “stuff” and being content with less.  We have found that this practice has created an incredible amount of joy and reduced a massive amount of stress from our lives.  We would like to share some of our successes (and things to avoid) in our 2017 weekly newsletters to help you discover new and different ways to live this year simply and sustainably.

          We welcome any suggestions, comments and advice from any of our readers to share with others, so that everyone can benefit from your personal experience!  So please reply back to any of the newsletters this year with your input!  Thank you!

          So here are a couple of tips that we began about 10 years ago for Holiday decorations:
          If it takes more than 2-3 hours to decorate for Christmas, we don’t do it!

          I know…it sounds ridiculous…it did to us too.  But we began by pairing down our decorations to the ones we really loved;  then we only put out the tree ornaments that have memories associated with them;  and we pack everything away in an organized fashion in large plastic bins, so that it’s easy to find and put up the next year (key to success).  And YES, whatever you are not using (after a couple of years), you can give away, donate, or use some things for wrapping gifts (like ornaments, ribbon, etc).  Think about all the people you can bless with your beautiful decorations that you don’t use anymore…

          Another tip we started many years ago which saves money and keeps the wrapping station organized:
          Use ONE Container for wrapping supplies; including all holiday celebrations (with birthday, anniversary, etc.)

          clear-storage-box-for-gift-wrapI know…sounds ridiculous…but it can be done.  You will be amazed how it will simplify the amount of gift wrap you need in your home.  You will not feel the need to go buy oodles and oodles of 50% off gift wrap after the holiday to store for the next holiday, because you will have a manageable wrap station that holds an easy to view inventory.  The only additional bag we have outside the wrap station is a recycle bag full of gift bags that we reuse for the next holiday.  We also save bows and tissue paper (if they are not damaged) to help decrease the landfill for at least another year.

          The lesson we learned about simplifying our decorations and wrapping supplies is this:  Simple and organized makes life easier and less stressful.  Simple living leads to sustainable living…

          Happy New Year from Leigh and Olin!

          olin-and-leigh-norris-dam2

          Fall Gardens are pretty short lived, so you have to choose seeds that have a quick growing cycle. Otherwise, you can buy plants at the garden center to have bounty before frost.

          My favorite publication site is:

           https://extension.tennessee.edu/publications/Pages/default.aspx

          Just enter “Fall Garden” in the search bar and all sorts of relevant information will pop up.  Great site with great resources!

          Here are the seeds I plant for Fall:  turnip greens, kale, collard greens, lettuce, spinach, radishes, mustard greens and carrots.

          I plant them in a raised bed that we convert to Cold Frame (made with recycled old windows to let the sun in) when the weather starts to get cold and frosty.  I will share more about Cold Frames another blog.