We spent this weekend weeding and planting in our fall garden. The squash I planted four weeks ago looks great and will produce some last minute zuchinnis and patty pan squashes for this year. We were able to get a large portion of the garden weeded. We weeded just enough to get a few sore muscles and find space for 2 rows of cabbage and 2 rows of broccoli. In 2 weeks we will plant both cabbage and broccoli again to stagger our harvest. I was also able to get 1 lb of garlic planted. I think I need to purchase another 1 lb and get it in the garden in a couple weeks. I will let you in on a secret. We purchased the garlic at the grocery store this year. It can be very expensive to buy garlic out of the seed catalogs. It is not near as expensive in the grocery store. So next year when we harvest, I will let you know how that turns out. We are taking a weekend break at the yardstead. The plan is to camp at the beach for a few days. Maybe by the time we get back in the garden their will be late summer squashes to stir-fry...yummy!
Here at the yardstead we are planting our fall garden. Many people believe that after the summer vegetables have gone that they must wait until next year to plan their next garden. Yet there are many cold hardy vegetables we can plant now to carry us through to the next spring season. In some cases this requires heavy mulching or using a row cover but in most cases it requires no special protection at all.
In the panhandle of Florida and in much of the south east it is time to plant broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, collards, kale and kohlrabi. These vegetables need to be planted 3 months before the first frost to ensure good production. Carrots, turnips and beets can be planted from now until approximately 8 weeks before the first frost. In September, begin planting spinach which will germinate well for a fall harvest and up to the first frost for an excellent early spring harvest. Shallots, garlic, and onions can also be planted now for the spring and early summer harvest next year.
It has been a very sad half of the week here at the yardstead. Last weekend we harvested the apple and speckled swan gourds. Jason was able to prepare the garden for a late summer crop of squash and some fall vegetables we need to plant. All of this was accomplished before Tuesday. On Tuesday evening or Wednesday early morning a stray dog killed our four ducks and the goose. They had been enjoying an opportunity to free-range for a day and were not in their pen. This tragedy has led to a very sad and quiet rest of the week.
A while back someone was nice enough to post a you-tube video to our forum on a movie (documentary) about the Dervaes family. It is titled Home Grown Revolution. If you have not heard of the Dervaes family, I suggest you check out their website at www.pathtofreedom.com They live on a 1/4 acre in Pasadena, CA. This land is very near the freeway and in an urban environment. They have turned a dream into a way of life and a business that supports a family of four. It's inspiring and amazing the amount of food they can grow on such a little plot in the city.
I have always thought that Jason and I were doing quite a bit on our 1/2 acre little yardstead...but we are no where near the production capacity of the Dervaes family. At the yardstead we plan to take on the challenge that the Dervaes family has started. We will quit waiting for more land and start producing as much as possible on our current land. And who knows...by this time next year, maybe we won't be mowing grass anymore.
I have been very busy researching aquaponics since I submitted the first article about raising catfish in a barrel. That article was posted in it's original form from a 1973 magazine article. This got me looking around on websites and you-tube for more information on how to raise fish on a small scale for our family. This week, I stumbled on to a you-tube video made by a student in Canada. She was using a system called barrel-ponics. If you would like to search for this you-tube video, just go to you-tube and search for "barrel-ponics".
I was happy to find she had a link posted with the video to the source of the barrel-ponics manual. It is at the following website. http://www.fastonline.org/content/view/15/29/ This is the link for the pdf. manual on how to build the barrel-ponic system. I have priced, what I think is probably the most expensive part of the system, the barrels, at our local farm and feed store. I have found that the blue plastic food grade barrels can be purchased for $17 each.
We have also managed to aquire some old trusses from a torn down shed. We plan to salvage the wood in the trusses to make a solid base for a pvc greenhouse. Also we will use the same wood to build the frames for the barrel-ponics system. Once this greenhouse is built, we plan to build the barrel-ponics system and start our own fish farming adventure. I believe that including all supplies for greenhouse and barrel-ponics system, we will not spend more than $300 to get started. I'm really excited about these upcoming projects.
We've wanted to plant our second summer garden for two weekends in a row but we've been rained out each weekend. I sit here writing this through another thunderstorm. Even though it sounds like I'm complaining, I really am thankful for the rain. Our bamboo, elephant ears, sugar cane and other plants really have enjoyed the rainy weather.
The gourds I planted in the garden have taken over. I have apple and goose gourds growing in every knook and cranny. This is a sore subject between me and Jason as he told me not to plant my gourds in the garden. Of course I didn't listen. So we have to make the garden a bit bigger to hold my second crop of squash. Ooops! Maybe I will be able to sell some gourds this fall and redeem myself.
Unfortunately a possum got into our chicken pen and ate our baby chicks. He/She also tore a big enough hole to let all the adult chickens out the next morning. We and the neighbors have had chickens running around the yard for three weeks. Thankfully our neighbors like to watch them peck and scratch. If the rain passes, we will at least get that fixed this weekend.
I am still very interested in the idea of aquaponics. I think at this time of the year I need to focus on getting a greenhouse up first. Then we can dedicate one section of it to a tank, table and plants for a early spring aquaponics system. I hope to spend the winter looking for the supplies I need at the lowest cost (free). I did find an excellent video on youtube that shows the exact greenhouse I want. It is a combination of 2X4's, 2x6'S, and PVC. We will update as we go and hopefully those updates will come soon!
After submitting the article for raising catfish in a barrel, I decided to go to youtube and look for some videos on small fish farming. I found aquaponics. Aquaponics is the cultivation of fish and plants in a recirculating system. Essentially you have a tank to hold your fish and you pump the water into hydroponic beds to grow vegetables. Then the water is pumped back into your fish tank. The plants clean the water of nutrients that the fish provide through their waste products. In an ideal situation the most you add to the system after set-up is fish food for the fish and approximately once a month a dose of chelated iron for the plants. As you harvest your plants, you can plant more to continue to use the fish waste as nutrients.
I plan to do more research on this topic and then start one of my own. I hope to find most of the materials for free. As usual I will be sure to take pictures and give some progress reports as I go. I will also write a more detailed article on aquaponics as soon as I learn more and start our system.
July is very hot here in Florida. Our garden is showing signs of the constant heat. The only thing that grows extrememly well in the months of July and August here are weeds! I have been buying a few bags of mulch each week and putting this around all out plants and trees to replace last years mulch and straw. This has helped to conserve some of the moisture in the soil around the plants.
The latest reports on the economy have made me very happy that we've grown so much of our own food this year. The more we grow now...the more we will be use to growing if we are forced to do so. I have figured out that our current garden 25 x 30, requires about an hour and a half of maintenance every other day. So, if one of us were to lose our income, a garden two or three times this size would be very manageable for one person at home during the day. We fortunately would only need to buy items like milk, sugar and flour if this was the case.
I will post some pictures of our edible beds and some potted items we have on the side of the house soon. We need to decide where to plant the two pinneapple guava plants I purchased last fall. We have a water chestnut plant that is doing so well in a pot that I'm tempted to put in a small water garden to get it really going.
We hope to have more updates soon as we plant our second summer garden and begin to plan for our fall/winter garden. Shallots will need to be planted next month and garlic a month or so after that. There is much to do here at the yardstead despite the increasing heat.