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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/

 

 

    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/

     

     

     

      Dirt Rich

      Here’s the story of a couple who jumped off their corporate ladders into a small farm…finding a more peaceful and joyful life.  They want to share their journey with you, the difference it made in their lives and how you can live sustainably too, whether that’s in your backyard or on a few acres.

      Dirt Rich Reviews

      “In Dirt Rich, Leigh and Olin Funderburk lay out a beautiful plan for a simple, sustainable life style. Not one that strips the joy and beauty from life, but one that enhances those very characteristics. They guide us through their model of enriching their lives and those of the people in their community, and how you can do the same.”

      Dan Miller

      Dan Miller, New York Times Bestselling Author of “48 Days to the Work You Love”

       

      “Before making the jump to homesteading, you should definitely get the inside “dirt” on how to turn your dream into a profitable reality.  In this charming and insightful book, Leigh and Olin Funderburk, owners of Stoney Creek Farm, share their journey towards a sustainable lifestyle.  Teachers at heart, you will learn (and laugh) as they share what worked for them, and what didn’t, and the (sometimes surprising) lessons they learned along the way.”

      pic of Cindy

      Cindy Shapton, Herbalist, Speaker, and Author of the “The Cracked Pot Herb Book”

      “If you are interested in a practical guide to sustainable farming, begin with this book.  Nothing beats hands-on experience, and in Dirt Rich, Leigh and Olin Funderburk, owners of Stoney Creek Farm, effectively and succinctly share theirs.  Dirt Rich is one of those rare books that simultaneously stakes out an engaging read filled with useful, real-world content, one which is sure to have you out searching for a farm of your own!  I highly recommend it to anyone who wants a jump-start on the journey to sustainable living.”

      Clark Gaither

      Clark Gaither, MD, Bestselling Author of “Powerful Words”

      To get your own copy of “Dirt Rich”, simply click on the link below:

      Buy “Dirt Rich” Now

        The Chicken, or the Egg?

        Deciding the answer to this question is the critical first step, before you actually get the chicks. Consider whether you really want to raise meat birds. They’re very different from egg-laying hens. You’ll have a lot (usually 50 or more, although you could just raise a few) of fast-growing birds, which means a lot of poop. And perhaps the biggest question to answer is: can you handle saying goodbye in a relatively short time? Whether you slaughter them on-farm or take them to be processed, if you’re a new farmer, you will need to face this reality, or be a vegetarian farmer. It’s up to you, but don’t agonize it after the fact: it’s considered cruel to let meat birds live longer than a few months as they are heavy-breasted and can die of heart failure if they grow too big.

        Some breeds can be used either for meat or for egg production. Assuming that you aren’t looking to invest in a huge broiler facility, our discussion on chickens will focus mostly around how to produce fresh eggs. You may or may not want to use the chickens for meat once their laying cycle is done, but by then they are literally not spring chickens anymore, and not as tender as they might be, so you’d want to think about this too, before slaughtering your previous egg layers for meat consumption.

        Should you get a rooster?

        Contrary to popular misconception, you don’t need a rooster for your hens to lay eggs. A rooster is needed to fertilize the eggs, to hatch them into baby chicks, but hens will lay just as many eggs whether there’s a rooster around or not. Some farmers would rather keep an all-female flock, and urban or suburban homesteaders may not have a choice, due to zoning laws that forbid roosters.

        When you keep a rooster, you have to be careful about broody hens (who will sit on the eggs, hoping they will hatch), because the eggs will start developing into baby chicks if fertilized. You can use the broody hen to hatch eggs, but this involves some decision making and supervision, so that the eggs you eat aren’t the ones she’s sitting on.

        Some farmers prefer to have a rooster, because he does offer significant protection for the flock. He will guard against predators and sound the alert if there is any perceived danger. We prefer to have a rooster because we think the girls get along better… but that is personal preference.

        rooster 3

        Pros of Having a Rooster:

        Roosters will protect their hens from predators, keeping them safe by keeping them together and sounding the alert if a predator approaches. He will also defend them bodily against an attacker!  They also complete the natural order of the flock. Chickens naturally live with males and females mixed, so you’re allowing your hens to live as “normal” a life as possible with a rooster in the mix. And owners have reported that roosters will break up “hen fights,” (think cat fights with feathers), find and give treats to their girls, encourage egg-laying, and even monitor the nest boxes.

        Roosters are iconic farmyard animals, and they are gorgeous to look at in many cases. They also have a lot of personality (think of the terms “cock of the walk, “ or “cock-a-hoop”). Many folks find that roosters are very entertaining and interesting creatures to have around.

        rooster 2

        You will need one if you want to naturally hatch baby chicks. My granddaddy Parker raised natural flocks, and the roosters were good daddies to their babies and took care of the mother hen too.

        Cons of Having a Rooster:

        One of the biggest cons of having a rooster is that his presence may violate your local zoning laws.  obviously, if your city or county doesn’t allow them, don’t get a rooster! You’re just asking for trouble.

        Even if your local laws don’t prohibit them, remember they can be noisy. Yes, they do crow, and yes, in the morning, and yes, at other inopportune times as well. Think of how you will like this when it happens, and also about your neighbors’ reactions, especially if you live in close quarters.

        Roosters can also be aggressive. They have spurs on their ankles that can break skin. You need to stay on top of “training” them that you’re the BIG rooster, so they respect you, and you might want to think about it if you have small children or lots of farm visitors.

        Roosters_preparing_to_fight

        They can “wear out” hens. Mating between a rooster and a hen is, of course, a natural process, but if you have too many roosters and too few hens (one rooster can “take care of” up to 30 hens), your hens will start to show the wear: (backs rubbed clean of feathers, for example), they’ll be just plain worn out. So keep your rooster to hen ratio in the healthy zone!

        Next week…fun facts about breeding hens

        Disclaimer:  We are not experts in the farm animal field.  We are providing some general information on farm animals, but you should always check with your local veterinarian prior to administration of any medical treatment (topical or oral) for your farm animals.
        What would a farm be without its animals?  Even though we have a plant-based operation as the draw to our farm, we do raise chickens (and will try to reintroduce more goats, eventually, as well).

        But your passion may require you to raise certain type of animals on your farm, and hopefully this information  will help to guide you in those decisions.

        So here are some of the animals that we know a little about.  Again, it’s by no means an exhaustive list, but hopefully enough information to begin with:

        Dog Breeds for the Farm

        When having dogs on a farm, it’s important to know whether you want them as working dogs or pets.  Try not to mix these roles, as they will get confused.  Consider taking a training class on how to train a dog, and go through it with yours. You need to be the alpha, and have the bond with you.

        Breeds good for farm:

        1) Great Pyrenees: (the nannying dogs) Guard livestock, from pretty much anything (wolves to people). Pretty shy possibly even with owners possibly, ensure they are working dogs and not the pet. Big and woolly but do not shed very much. Can adjust to almost any temp and climate.  Good with all livestock. Love other animals (except for threats). Raised as herding and guarding dogs. Easy to take care of, very popular breed for farm work. Check out this video…
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jEXkHwQK8Es

        2) Border Collie: More like a herding and gathering dog.  Very intelligent and energetic, so they need to be worked, otherwise they can get into mischief, need to be kept challenged. Very loyal, love to please.

        3) German Shepherd: Mostly thought of as canine/FBI dogs, but actually raised as a shepherd (hence the name). These dogs are very good at guarding, not really herding type, but very good at keeping everyone safe on the farm. Can be territorial and very protective, so need to train them young on how to act to strangers. Can be very loyal and sweet as well.

        4) Corgi: Don’t let their size fool you! Bred to snap at cattle heels and herd them, not at all afraid of larger animals. Because of general domestication of breed, which now has even shorter legs, probably better for small ruminants and perhaps chickens. Corgis are very smart as well.

        5) Rottweiler: Not many people remember that these were actually bred as guarding, territorial animals since Roman times. Great nannying dogs, like Great P’s, but are very territorial and they need to be introduced to strangers slowly, and you need to be there, otherwise they may, probably not attack, but display their territorial nature, so Rottweilers while great at what they do, and potentially very gentle and loving, because of the “Cujo” mystique many people are hesitant to use them.

        6) Australian Cattle Dog: Another really smart herding breed, not so much a guarding breed to scare predators away. Will keep livestock together and on the property. Very fast and nimble, typically only about 30-40 lbs. max.  Very fast and smart, another breed that you need to keep engaged.  In fact many of these breeds that can be used with effect on the farm do not do so well in urban settings/apartments, etc. and will tear stuff up because it is difficult to keep them active enough and their minds engaged enough. Really need to wear them out.

        7) English Sheep Dog, bred to care for sheep, one of the oldest and well-known herding dogs. Also one of the most successful farm helpers due to their strength and agility, will stand up to almost any predator, but also a very sweet temperament and loving. Have a thick coat, but this is breathable, so they don’t get super-hot and can do well in hot summers.  Do not require a whole lot of coat management.  Will get shaggy if outdoors a lot, but a trim at a vet’s office once or twice a year should be enough to deal with this, and won’t cost you much.

        Should you let your working dogs sleep inside? Depends on what you are working with, if you are keeping them mostly as herding animals and you confine your herd at night and don’t need dogs to protect against predators, then they can go in garage, for example. But if your livestock is going to be exposed to coyotes, hawks, etc., then you’ll want your dogs to be around, so that you (and your herd) will feel more secure.

        8) Burmese Mountain Dog: Very similar to the Great Pyrenees. Bred mainly for guarding, very attentive to what they do, but perhaps not as agile as some other dogs. Can get very big (100+ lbs.)

        Standard care for dogs:  Core vaccines as per state regs.  1 or 3-year rabies shots, distemper/parvovirus (1 or 3 year). Not state mandated in TN, but a very common one that protects against contagious diseases (especially as puppies)

        Situational vaccines: Bordatella (for kennel cough) Lyme Disease and influenza.  We don’t usually give Lyme Disease in TN, as the tick vector is not found in this state.

        Also need protection against internal and external parasites like fleas and ticks, heartworm (this is a mosquito-borne parasite and now a big problem in TN, especially since Katrina, when a lot of animals in Louisiana who routinely were exposed, then fostered up in Tennessee, and then mosquitoes spread it everywhere).

        Need to check at least annually, because dog can be on a great prevention (Trifexis). Expensive, but if you document administration and dog contracts heartworm they will pay for it.  Heartguard is also great.  Differs from Trifexis in that it does heartworms and roundworms) Trifexis does heartworms, roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, and fleas (not ticks). You can do Trifexis and a supplemental flea and tick protection, and the extra flea prevention will not be a problem as it will be a completely different mode of action.

        Sometimes, dog medicines, like people medicines, will have different names, but it’s the same medicine just made by a different manufacturer. But in the case of Advantage multi, for instance, this is very different from Trifexis and Heartgard.  Advantage is a topical, so when applied to the skin, it goes into the blood, so when a flea or tick bites, its going to be killed automatically.  The Trifexis actually goes into the subcutaneous layers of the skin after the dog has ingested it, and this prevents the fleas from even wanting to bite (a repellent, that is).

        Any of the ingestion methods are going to be completely different in mode of action from any of your topicals, although much of the time the end result (killing of adult fleas, replant action, etc.) can be the same.

        Getting animals spayed or neutered can not only prevent unwanted pregnancy, but can also prevent against certain sex-linked cancers. Studies are showing that animals spayed before three years can reduce the chance of ovarian and uterine cancers, and (if neutered) prostate and testicular cancers.

        Vets always recommend spaying/neutering unless you know you would like to breed the animal (which can be another source of farm income, BTW) 6 months or older.

        On the diet front…raw meat is not a good thing for your dog. Parasites etc. that are removed by cooking are in the meat, which has also been raised in a no-wild state can infect your dogs.

        Animals, like people, are living so much longer now, largely due to better care, that the end result of most dog lives is now some form of cancer (as it is in people).  So cancer-preventive measures are a good idea. However, cancer treatments in animals, as in people, have also made great strides, which is something to consider perhaps in a younger dog especially.

        Next week…more farm animals and their care.

        To learn more about sustainable farming check out our “Simple Sustainable Farm Living” Conference:
        http://stoneycreekfarmtennessee.com/simplify-your-life-sustainable-farm-living-conference-april-14-15-2016/

        “How I Fell in Love with our Farm”

        OK, I have to admit that I fell in love with the place immediately. A creek with a stone bed winds almost through the entire farm, and lends its identity to the name of our property: Stoney Creek Farm. In the spring we have about a quarter acre of yellow daffodils (otherwise known as buttercups) growing all around the creek.  In the summer the native Yucca plants bloom a field of white.  We are abundantly rich with native wildlife, trees and plants and it’s a beautiful and peaceful place to live.

        buttercups

        Our residence is actually a pole barn design, complete with steel beams and stained concrete floor, finished inside as a house. Olin has always enjoyed repurposing and recycling materials, and this barn/house was the perfect experiment for him. One of our biggest conversation pieces is the pair of 100-year-old barn doors lining the dining room wall. He also built two full 12’x60′ porches on the front and back of the barn for more outdoor living space, and a three car garage on the end of the barn with lots of room for a freezer, extra refrigerator and storage.  Later, Olin finished the upstairs hayloft into a large bonus room bedroom and third full bathroom in the barn.

        barn picture for ads

        This hybrid barn/house has proven to be comfortable, simple, and very sustainable. By building a pole barn with metal there is very little maintenance for at least 30 years. The only maintenance is replacement of the screws that hold the metal every 10 years.

        The concrete floors are also very easy to maintain and keep clean. Olin also built a smaller barn and workshop with two more garage bays and horse stalls in the back. We determined that it was too much work and too much money for us to maintain our own horses, but sometime in the future we may be able to board horses as another source of income, so I’m glad we have the stalls.

        We’ve experimented unsuccessfully with small fruit orchards (cedar rust and thieving raccoons) and meat goats (coyotes), but we still have a few goats for kids to pet when they come to visit, and may decide to breed again one day.

        Goat and Olin

        After these learning experiences, in 2011 we decided to offer rental gardens and a U-Pick Garden. In Williamson County there is a huge amount of people living in apartments, condos, and homes with small lots. We felt that many of these people would like to grow their own healthy food, and with our backgrounds in farming we were hoping that we could help them do so.
        garden best

        Our goal does not revolve solely around making money, it’s about helping people to see the benefits of sustainable farm living… benefits which I call less stress, more joy.  As a former part of the rat race, I know the value of healthy living with lower stress, because my blood pressure went down almost immediately when I left Xerox to concentrate full-time on growing our sustainable farm model.

        garden2

        The farm has been full of surprises, allowing me to stretch my interests and create opportunities to teach those things no longer taught in schools, or even passed down in family traditions, things like Canning, Making Sourdough Bread, and much more. I have also taken painting classes and now sell paintings and teach painting (occasionally) at the farm. All these things simply bring us a great deal of joy, and we want to share our joy with you, whether you want to learn how you also can permanently get out of the corporate rat race, or just need a break from it on the weekend.

        20150722_TSC_786

        So stop by and see us, and see your kids laugh as they play with our silly goats, miles away from the nearest video game. Feel your body relax as you walk among the flowers and pick your own vegetables outside in the fresh air, and not under fluorescent lights while freezing to death in the air-conditioned maze of some anonymous big box store.  Maybe even take your shoes off, and dig your feet into the dirt wealth that nourishes so many people, on so many levels. Whatever the reason for the city scowl you might arrive with, you’ll have a country smile by the time you leave.

        20150722_TSC_839