Thursday, April 28, 2016


If you follow this blog you have gathered Ralph and I both have seed catalog impulse control disorder! It was bad enough when we had no room. We had to draw the line with limited space. However now we have room....if its crazy and colorful, we can try to grow it. Self control is out the window, but oh it is fun to be bad!

So I have to tell you about our corn selections and the few that "Mr" Ralph slipped past me!

1- Yurackallhua Incan corn
 From Baker Creek:
These Kernels are huge and ....well we just had to try it!
In the Urrabamba Valley and adjacent areas in Peru grows this monster corn, it is probably the largest race of corn on earth, a single kernel weighs in at a gram a piece.. 30 % larger than the next “biggest corn”! Yurracklallhua is a late maturing corn from the Andes, it probably will need at least 150 days to ripen, and may get skyscraper tall. If you succeed in growing this behemoth your corn will be the talk of the town. In Peru, the giant cobs are boiled the mealy chewy kernels are a delicacy, much heartier than any sweet corn ever was, but a real belly filler! The dried kernels are boiled for long periods and added to stews and soups.
Yurackallhua Incan corn

2- Black Mexican Sweet Corn 
 Southern Exposure Seed Exchange:

Mexican Black Corn

(Mexican Sweet, Black Iroquois) (white at edible stage) 76 days. [1864. Despite its name, it appears to have originated in upper NY, and was probably derived from Iroquois Black Puckers. The name may have been given by a seed company trying to give novelty to its seed offerings, a practice not uncommon in the late 1800s.] The kernels, white at milk stage, change to bluish-black in the late milk stage. Exceptional flavor. 5½ ft. plants. 7½ x 1½ in. ears, typically with 8 rows of kernels. Harvest several days before kernels show color to several days afterwards. Though adapted to New England, it does well as an early-to-mid-season crop in the South.

 This corn is a cornmeal corn but is very good eating if picked at the milk stage before it gets really black.

Ready to eat Mexican Black Corn

3-Thompson's Prolific
Baker Creek:

Thompson's Prolific
Excellent pale yellow dent type, very productive. Sturdy, 8-9 foot stalks frequently make two heavy 8-inch ears. This variety was recommended for Tennessee farmers in the 1936 USDA Yearbook of Agriculture, and was offered in the Richmond, Virginia area in the 1930's. An excellent choice for the middle South. Great for oven roasting, grilling or just plain fresh eating! (90-110 days)

4- Aunt Mary's Sweet corn
Southern Exposure Seed Exchange:

Aunt Mary's Sweet Corn
An old variety white sweet corn, ears  7" to 8" long on plants that are 6' to 8' tall.  Fairly short season, ready to eat in 65 days from planting. This was once a popular commercial canning variety from the early 1900's.  This is a good choice for farmers market growers from both a quality and sustainable standpoint.

5-Country Gentleman
Southern Exposure Seed Exchange:
 Notice the irregular non row set of the kernels.

 Country Gentleman Shoepeg Corn

 (Shoepeg) (white) 93 days. [1891] The dense, round kernels are irregularly arranged instead of in rows, giving these ears a striking appearance. The sweet 8 in. ears remain in the milk stage longer than many varieties. 2 ears per stalk. A favorite for freezing and creamed corn. Well known throughout the Hudson Valley, well adapted to the northern Mid-Atlantic. More resistant to corn smut than earlier, smaller varieties.

6- Stowells Evergreen
Baker Creek:

 Nice uniform kernels on a good sized cob.

This is among the oldest sweet corn that is still in production, predating 1949. It is still a favorite of many, producing tasty white kernels. The plants used to be pulled up when completely ripe, and hung upside-down in a cool pantry; the ears would last well into the winter, in a semi-fresh state. In 1873, the seeds sold for 25 cents per pint.

7- Luther Hill Sweet Corn
Southern Exposure Seed Exchange:

 We hope this corn tastes as good as it looks!

 (white) 82 Days. [Developed 1902 in Andover Township, NJ, by Rutgers University horticulturist Luther Hill.] Produces two 6 in. ears on each 5½ ft. tall stalk. A home garden variety adapted to the Appalachian foothills. Can be grown as far north as southern Ontario. Flavor is unsurpassed compared to other open pollinated corns. One of the parental lines of the very successful ‘Silver Queen’ hybrid sweet corn. Still used by breeders to impart exceptional flavor to hybrid sweet corn. Does best on a well-drained ridge, not soggy bottom.

8- Oaxacan  Green Dent
Baker Creek:

 This was my number one pick because green is my favorite color....not the most scientific selection method but it worked for me!

This photo does not do the kernels justice, they almost glow and each one is slightly different!
 85-100 days. The stunningly beautiful ears of corn come in a range of greens, from yellow-green through emerald, with every imaginable shade in between. The deeply dented kernels have been used for centuries by the Zapotec people to make a regional favorite, green-flour tamales. Also makes excellent cornbread! The 6- to 10-inch ears are superb in arrangements and for fall decoration. Plants reach 7 feet, are very drought-tolerant, and perform well even at higher latitudes. Amazing and cool!

Last but not least is....

9- Texas Gourdseed.
Baker Creek:

 We liked the history behind this corn plus it is a good cooking corn and I hope to make  more of  my own cornmeal products this year ahead.

120 days—Prior to the Civil War, gourd-seed corns were among the most prevalent types throughout the South. The kernels are very long or deep, but very small in the amount of space they take up on each ear. This gives them a different appearance than other corns; fancifully compared to the seeds of gourds. The stalks on this variety are a modest 8 feet in height; usually producing two ears per stalk. Each ear contains 18 to 20 rows of cream-colored, dent-type kernels. It is considered to be among the most flavorful of dent types, and is beloved in tortillas, puddings, dumplings, corn bread and more. Can be harvested for fresh eating at the milk stage, about 73 days. Tolerates drought and clay soils better than most, too. Originally brought to Texas by farmers of German descent who migrated there from Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee in the late 19th century.

So there is the tall and short of our corn selections. This is a lot of corn but we want to find out what grows the best here and is the most use to us. 2016 will be the year of the great experiments and this is one of them.
I hope these varieties are interesting to you and give you ideas to try...they have all stood the test of time!

Take care and God Bless you all.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Garden Notes 2016....

23 April 2016

We are looking at having a south garden for summer vegetables, a West garden for spring and fall vegetables, an East garden for a kitchen garden, a Pond garden for wheat and either sweet or hot peppers (haven't decided yet), and a Clothes Line garden for perennials and herbs. We may stick things in other places as available or needed.

A rough idea of where the gardens are.

In the pond garden, we planted a band of Pima Club wheat across the top and White Sonora wheat below that. That took about half of the garden. There was 1 pound of each. We used an herb bottle with large holes for a shaker. We're not sure of coverage: too thick or not thick enough? And the rows were not straight. There may be overlapping or gaps in coverage as we went across. We're not sure what we're going to do with it, but it is planted and we have it. We used the power harrow to smooth the ground after our neighbor plowed and disked it. That helped a lot. After dropping the seed, we used the power harrow at about 1.5 inch depth to cover the seeds and the roller on the back to firm the soil for good soil contact. Hope this works. It looked nice.

Pima Club wheat, it is good for bread and pastries and is an old wheat and has less gluten issues.

The east garden had garlic, elephant garlic, multiplying onions, and Egyptian Walking onions planted last fall on December 10, 2015. We planted them very late for this area. We need to plant much earlier next time: maybe middle to end of October? And the rows are much too close. I have trouble getting the Troy-Bilt between the rows. I mulched the rows with shavings from the poultry. I may have covered too deep. We have poor emergence. Mulching may not even be necessary here. Weeds are coming up between the rows. I needed to attack the weeds earlier. 

There were gaps at the end of the rows, the wet end of the rows where water would stand. I planted Sweet Lorane fava beans in this space. Seems to be fairly good emergence. It could be better. I just pushed the seeds into the ground with my finger. I may have damaged seeds. I may have gotten them too deep. But I still had fairly good emergence. They were planted three or four rows wide with rows about 3” apart. Not real good practice. They needed regular planting techniques.

The next row was a half row of Broad Windsor fava beans. Planted in three close rows. Bigger plants (normal). Looking good. Planted the same way.

The idea on both was to use the closeness as a support for each other so they didn't need a trellis. Starting to come along good on both. Both need weeding within the rows.

We finished out the Broad Windsor row and three more with peas. The tendril peas and the Oregon Sugar Pod peas seemed to have done well. But the rest didn't. That was probably because of all the duck, turkey, and chicken activity on the rows. The house ends had the worst of it. We need fencing.

The East Garden or Kitchen Garden, this was the garden that the Amish had here, we have just enlarged it.

We then did three wide rows. The first two were carrots, spinach, lettuce, beets, kale, and leeks. Again, chicks and friends did their thing. Poor coverage. The third row was old seed from the 80's and 90's. No sign of any germination. We're going to redo this row.

A photo of the newly plowed west garden taken from the Kitchen window

The west garden goes from the ridgeline down to the drainage line, which goes from the barn and yard area down to the pond. Down next to the drainage line, I used the rotary plow to turn the soil (after mowing it with the flail mower). I plowed around the hillside (toward the pond) and progressing up the hill for width. There was still a downward trend for the rows because of the decreasing elevation. Due to time our neighbor finished the plowing and then disked the rest of the way up toward the the top toward the fence line. It is still rough. I need to run the power harrow over it yet to smooth it out some. 

Using the power harrow.

Where I rotary plowed, I planted 3 ½ rows of potatoes. I planted 12 varieties. They were from early to mid-season to late varieties. We don't know what works for this area and this weather. Maybe nothing. We planted the Wednesday before Good Friday (23 March 2015) because of incoming rain. We are at about 70% emergence now. There is signs of ground cracking. The others will be out within days. Some are already about 5” high. Carola and Butte started the show. We green sprouted the first 11 varieties. Huckleberry Gold was an add on because of its low glycemic index and it did not get green sprouted. It is the last to come up. The green sprouting seems to have helped. Something to look forward to for future years. The Carola and Butte have been up 10 days to 2 weeks. Rows are needing weeded as soon as it drys some. And they are going to need hilled up soon.

This is from the living room window looking west, you can see the potatoes.

The bottom row was peas, beets, etc. Very heavy poultry activity. Poor crop. Need fencing.

The South garden was plowed and disked. It was rough. So I took the power harrow to it. It looks a lot better, but still somewhat rough.

I still need to rotary plow the herb garden and we still have to design it for both annual and perennial herbs.

The beginning of the New Herb Garden.

The ducks and buff's came to help as soon as they saw the first rotary plowing! 

The new plowed garden.


I am working harder now than ever. Retirement is good for me. I will have further updates as things happen. 


Sunday, April 24, 2016

Food Revolution....

Ralph and I took the time to watch "The Truth About Cancer" web series. We got a lot out of it but it still seemed a bit like an infomercial. There was however an incredible amount of information about food and its effects on health and illness both.
Despite the promotion of the DVD's and the shameless use of pathos we are glad we watched it.

So since we are suckers for punishment.....I have signed up for the 5th annual food Revolution Summit on line. We will see how it goes. We both think we can winnow good from the fluff and glossy format and learn more about our food.

I think the interesting thing is that so many of us here in the Homestead blog world are very aware of food and how it affects us already.

I am posting a fact sheet from a pdf download I received from them. It's interesting this healthy outlook to food is managed by the "Robbin's from Baskin-Robbins ice cream, the son that did not take over the family business and walked his own road.

Top Ten Reasons We Need A Food Revolution 

Our food system is killing us.
In the U.S., more than 2/3 of the population is now
overweight or obese, and heart disease and stroke are killing
more than 700,000 people every year. The National Institutes of
Health reports that in the 1960s less than 2% of America’s kids
had a chronic health condition. Today it’s over 25%. And one in
three American children is expected to get diabetes. All of these
illnesses are directly linked to food and lifestyle choices.

It’s bankrupting us.
Three quarters of medical spending in the U.S. today
goes towards managing lifestyle-related chronic illness. Medical
expenses are already the leading cause of bankruptcy for
families, and they’re quickly driving the entire nation towards
fiscal disaster. In fact, the costs of Medicare in the United States
are expected to double in the next generation. Meanwhile, the
federal government in the United States provides tens of billions
of dollars in subsidies for “commodity crops”, like corn, wheat,
and soy, that are in turn processed into high fructose corn syrup,
white flour, and animal feed for factory farms. The very things
that science tells us we should be eating less of are
actually being subsidized by the taxpayer. 

It’s devastating our planet.
Modern food production practices are depleting our
soil and groundwater, polluting our water and our bodies with
neurotoxic pesticides, endangering pollinators like bees and
butterflies, depleting ecosystems of other important wildlife like
frogs, fish and salamanders, and they’re a driving force behind
climate change. 

It’s hitting kids and poor people the hardest.
Many low income and inner city communities are
described as “food deserts”, because there is so little access to
fresh vegetables and other healthy foods. People of low income
and people of color have the lowest life expectancy and the
highest rates of diabetes, heart disease, obesity, cancer, and
other lifestyle related chronic illnesses. 

It’s inhumane.
Farm workers are being exposed to large amounts of
toxic pesticides on the job, and they’re driven to work brutally long
hours for very little compensation. The average life expectancy for
a migrant farm worker in the U.S. is 49 years. In Mexico, conditions
are even worse. And then, there are the animals. Chickens never
see the sunlight and are kept in cages so small they cannot lift a
single wing, mother pigs are forced to spend most of their lives in
gestation crates so small they cannot even turn around, and many
cows never see a blade of grass. 

It’s destroying our antibiotics.
To keep animals alive under these deplorable condi-
tions, they are fed antibiotics with every dose of feed. In fact,
80% of antibiotics used in the U.S. are fed to livestock, not to
people. If you wanted to breed antibiotic resistant bacteria
you’d be hard pressed to find a more efficient way to do it. We
are already seeing increasing incidences where anti-biotic resist-
ant bacteria in humans can be deadly, and this is why. 

We can do better.
Less than 10% of Americans eat a healthy diet consist-
ent with federal recommendations. And an estimated 90-95%
of cancer cases and 80% of heart attacks have their roots in
diet and lifestyle. We know how to radically improve the health
outcome for millions of people – and to save trillions of dollars,
and possibly the future of our planet, in the process.

The times are changing and young
people are leading the way.
Sales of organic foods have increased over 26-fold in the last
generation, to now exceed 4% of market share. We’ve seen
a three-fold increase in farmer’s markets in the last decade.
Nine U.S. states have now joined the entire European Union in
banning gestational crates for pigs, and Australia’s two largest
supermarket chains now sell only cage-free eggs in their house
brands. Sales of certified non-GMO products have gone from
nothing to $7 billion in sales in the last 4 years. Sales of natural
foods have now grown to be a $100 billion industry. Thankfully,
younger consumers are leading the way, and are far more likely
to stand up for healthier food. 

Everyone can benefit.
Whether you’re young or old, sick or healthy, wealthy
or poor, you have a stake in your health. And it turns out there’s
serious money to be made in the food revolution. Farmers,
producers, retailers and consumers all have the opportunity
to take part in a massive shift in how we grow, process, eat
and think about food. And to reap the benefits.

You can be an everyday food revolutionary.
You don’t have to wait for government or industry to
change. You can lead the way by reclaiming your relationship
with food and making it an expression of your values. If you
want health, and a healthy planet, the invitation is clear. Join
the Food Revolution!

Take care and get your greens a growing!

God Bless you all.


Friday, April 22, 2016

Yes we Have a cat.....

There is a critter here that gives us a lot of joy and she gets ignored or at least not mentioned very often. She has been with Ralph since April of 2005 and with us since 2009. She will celebrate her 11th birthday at the end of the month.

Picassa the cat, a long hair cross between Rag Doll and Maine Coon. She is a rescue and Ralph initially got her for company when he drove highway truck. She is hilarious, serious and such good company. She was such fun for Ralph when he drove and kept us laughing in Virginia.

She is an indoor cat, Ralph has trained her not to cross the doorsill and had to when she was in the tractor with him. She has come to think of me as a substitute for Ralph in dire circumstance and I have to admit having her in Virginia was really good for me. I had never not had animals and lived in town so she filled a hole.

Whoever thought to cross Maine Coon and Ragdoll should have their head examined. Her personality is wonderful but she has a horrendous amount of very thick fine fur and then to top that off a long outer coat. She sheds two cats maybe three a year. Ralph groomed her in the truck and even now if I hold up the brush and comb she comes running to be groomed.

Like all cats she loves sun.....and can sit in it or sleep in it for hours.


She helps me iron Ralph's jeans.

She is always perched somewhere looking at her domain.

Picassa helps me with laundry.

 She can sleep anywhere and in any position.

This move has been an adventure for her too. First we got the turkey poults. She was fascinated.

A big new house with lots of light and windows.

She took right to it.

When we moved into the house in Virginia she took  days to get used to it and hid a lot. She paced the rooms, yeowled and was not happy with the new digs. This house though was her home right away. She never cried or hid at all and acted like she had been here all her life. She is tempted to sneak down into the basement though and did manage to get her way once, she came back purring and covered with all sorts of cobwebs and....ikk!  She gets some serious speed up when she plays and has a very favorite place in front of the wood stove on cold days, or behind it in a box.

We got her a cat tower....we have room for one and Ralph has always wanted one for her. She loves it and can watch 'her' farm from the tallest tower through the kitchen window, or sleep in one of the little boxes.

So there you have it. The regular pet on our unusual farm. She has earned her keep and the house is mouse free, she has caught two. I think she likes the fact this is a farm house and will occasionally have some work for her to do. 

She does not like chickens and when Ralph brought a hen up to get treated from a rooster injury Picassa was quite horrified at the very indignity of having poultry in the house....well at least poultry that still clucked!

God Bless everyone and get gardening!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Its a Busy day for a Turkey

This is a "Spike and Trainwreck" view of a day on the farm. Spike is quite observant of all the things that go on.

"Hello, Spike here."

5:00 am:
The screeching of the guinea fowl warns us dawn is near.

5:30 am:
We hear the weird alarm 'Boss' uses on his phone. It sings Good Morning, good morning, its a beautiful day. Of course this is irrelevant because it is still dark. Oh it also sings that same song in sleet, rain, snow you know whatever!

5:32 am:
We turkey's, except for the hens that are sitting on eggs, fly off the deck rail at this point and go for a drink and some Fresh food. Boss says good morning as he goes by to let the chickens out, the ducks are already out and...doing duck things. There is a good reason to "gobble" life is wonderful! I am making romantic headway with Lilac.....ooohhh shes a cutie pie!

 "This is Lilac, her long legs just make my little turkey heart beat faster!"

7:00 am:
Mrs Boss comes out on the deck to say hi and usually gives us some treats. Stale bread, left over oatmeal, even torn up bits of soft taco's. Yesterday we had the seeds from some tomato's she made sauce from.

8:00 am:
That darned Royal Palm bozo "Blackback" says hands off Lilac, he is the boss but I know she likes me  best cause she keeps sidling up to  me when he isn't around.  Trainwreck said he would lookout for us.

"Blackback thinks he is just THE turkey..."

8:30 am:  It is a nice morning and the grass is really growing so we head out to graze for a while. This is much nice than in the winter when we ate bagged feed, now we get greens until we just can tuck another bite in. Well there are some tasty bugs too. Don't try the garlic leaves though, they are horrible! Plus Boss gets pretty nasty when we go over there.
11:00 am:
We spend a couple hours out and about, its fun because we can graze under the apple trees, over by the clothesline and even on the west side of the big barn. Today though it is quite warm and we decide to get some shade on the north side of the utility building. It is much easier to keep warm with all our feathers than to cool off. Heat is going to take some getting used to.

 "I just love clover and this farm has lots of it."

2:00 PM:
The buff roosters are rude to the hens, we try to protect them and they are often around  us or underfoot.

We were protecting some girls and Lilac come over to say hi....I was speechless and sure made a fool of myself!

" I have been trying to be cool around this girl.....and the hen said that Lilac likes me....."

4:00 PM:

There is always something new around here, Boss has to watch the weather and he got this new gadget, it tells them if its going to rain or storm or be windy, heck I can tell them all that stuff!

6:00 PM:
I have a Guinea's ever shut up?

6:45 PM:
We have  been watching the big oak tree, Mrs Boss loves this tree and often sits under it with us. It is shady and in this hot weather has a nice breeze under it. It also has the wind chimes...I can sing way better!

7:42 PM:

Well its about that time. Another day at the farm and its about time we hit the "deck". I am tired and feel a bit sleepy. It takes a lot of hiking around to keep this farm in shape. I am going to have to keep up my form and who knows...ahhh Lilac.

Good night everyone!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Things to see around the farm

 At the chickens level....looking for tidbits.

 Lefty, the Buckeye rooster. We had Pancho and Lefty from the Willie Nelson song but unfortunately the wild dog got Pancho who was the bigger but not maybe better rooster. We think this fellow is very nice.

 Mr. Attitude, the more mature of the two Buff roosters we have. Yes he has attitude and it may be his undoing if he does not stop beating the hens up. The Buffs are still more hen aggressive than we like.

 Spike, one of the remaining two Chocolate Toms. Yes we did the deed and 6 toms went to the processors. We kept three Tom's, two chocolate and 1 palm. We have noticed the sudden onset of hot weather is making the turkeys pant in the heat. 

 Meet "Blackback" he is our  main Tom and we think he is a fine specimen of Royal Palm Turkey. He is careful with the hens and they like him very  much. We call him Blackback because the front feathers on his back have no white penciling and are quite distinct.

 The Guinea's have started to pair up. They do not do everything as a group any more and are actually much calmer. This pair is a Royal Purple and a Coral Blue.

 The apple trees are covered in "Pollinators", we cannot say just bee's as there are so many other flying insects. Small wasp's, Bumble Bee's and a lot of other bees that are not honey bees. There are  honeybee's too for which we are thankful. The location of the trees seems to have protected them from the frost  we had.

 Looking almost due south across the park. I love this view, it changes so  much with the seasons and now has that beautiful new green look to it as the trees leaf out!

 A German Pink Tomato seedling, the miracle that is seeds always makes me think of how truly blessed we are.

The first Thai Red Roselle's to sprout. These are going to be exciting to watch grow.

The latest in Hen Spa technology. The ultimate in modern personal grooming treatments, a potting soil dustbath in a bucket!

 Our poor looking lilac bush is a home to butterflies, lots and lots of them. Of course when I have the camera  out there are not so many and the wind comes up but I hope this gives you an idea of how the butterflies love it.

Things are going well here and today sees us doing prep work on the land that the wheat is going on. Of course Laundry is in the works and the myriad of chores we have to do about the farm. There is a lot of happy poultry noise coming in the open window as I type this and it is peaceful. God Bless you all.