Thursday, May 29, 2008

Summer Comes Early to the South

Our first turkeys arrived in the mail today.

They look like chickens to me.

I'm not sure what I expected. They are cute and despite warnings to the contrary, have seemingly found their food and water and are eating and drinking.

I really love the long growing season here in the south. Yesterday, our breakfast came mainly from things produced here on the homestead.

I picked green onions, peppers and spinach from the garden and scrambled them with eggs from our chickens. When I added a little store bought cheese, my heart longed for the goats we hope to bring to the homestead one of these days. I simply cannot wait for homemade cheese!

For dinner last night, I made chicken we raised ourselves with rice and a cucumber salad. The cucumbers are from the garden. I dressed them with a honey dressing. Yummy!

This is the year of the garden for us. We are working on improving the health and taste of the food from it. Part of the process involves measuring and testing. We got our soil tested and confirmed it is bad. Really bad. Well, actually, really, REALLY bad. So bad the soil engineer called me personally to assure me when soil is this bad any little thing you do will give immediate improvement.

We've decided to follow a plan for producing a higher Brix garden. Brix is a measure of plant sugars and thus minerals. The higher the minerals, the higher the nutritional value and the better the taste. We've obtained a blend of soft rock phosphate mixed with sea minerals and other things to improve our soil this year. We also ordered a refractometer from Ebay to measure improvements.

We've had a little fun measuring the Brix values of our garden produce. Only a little fun because our numbers are so low. Of course if our numbers weren't low, we'd probably be upset about our investment in soil amendments.

We've been using a Brix foliar spray from Peaceful Valley and that has allowed our plants to actually grow and produce. However, most of our vegetables are in the "poor" category Brix wise. But, we are looking forward to improvement.

Since moving here, we have never been able to grow tomatoes. This year, knowing my soil is calcium deficient, I ground up egg shells from eggs laid by our chickens and sprinkled them in with the tomatoes. We've also applied the Brix mix from Peaceful Valley. Last year, the tomato plants barely germinated and died before producing a single flower. This year, they look MUCH better.

Most of the plants look very strong as well. I'm praying for a good crop of tomatoes this year. I would LOVE to be able to do some canning with them and I am simply dying to make homemade, fermented salsa!

We've had a much better crop of lettuce this year than ever before.

I planted several different kinds.

The only real problem I had this year is a critter that keeps digging under the garden fence and rooting up the garden. It doesn't seem to eat anything; it just damages stuff.

We've been enjoying snap beans for awhile now and I have more to harvest. Our black beans are starting to come in as well. The purple flowers are so pretty and the bees love them, especially the indigenous bees.

I followed this gal around trying to get a good picture of her.

These bees are so quick it is hard to get a picture of them.

The cucumbers are now producing.

We've got a couple different kinds of cucumbers. The one in the picture above is supposed to be a "burpless" cucumber. They grow long and because we haven't trellised them, they grow in giant curls.

The cucumber blossoms are so pretty hiding beneath the foliage.

But there is nothing in the garden as pretty as the squash blossoms.

My family doesn't really like squash, but I plant them anyway. I'd almost do it just for the flowers. I've planted several types of squash this year too.

Like me, our honey bees really love the squash blossoms.

In fact, there is practically a line for some of the flowers.

I tried getting a good honey bee picture, but bees are just not very cooperative for the camera.

In fact, I'm sure this one glared at me when I used the flash.

Our sugar cane continues to grow.

We are really looking forward to this crop, though we have no idea how we are going to process it. It may end up being no more than a novelty.

Most of our three sisters garden looks good this year since I threw some chicken coop hay over it.

I've heard chicken poop is hot and will burn plants. So I'd hoped it would prevent weeds. We apparently have very powerful weeds.

Actually, we really do have some very prolific weeds and I'd sure love some help identifying them. Does anyone know what this is:

It has wine colored stems and dark green leaves. They will grow quite large and sprawling if allowed to grow unchecked.

How about this:

That one has little seeds that form under the leaves like ferns.

Another weed trying to take over our world is this:

This one starts out looking like a carrot and grows into a long, fuzzy thing about 4 feet tall. It spreads by underground runner and parts of it turn woody if allowed to grow.

These three plants are my biggest foes in the garden. I also have problems with abundant poke weed, but I know that one already.

Additionally, I have a type of tree growing all over the yard and could use help identifying it. I REALLY want it to be sassafras, but the leaves don't look like the pictures I've seen. Here is a mature one:

The leaves are weird. The saplings are everywhere and look like this:

The three different leaf shapes on the same tree make me think sassafras, but they just don't match the pictures.

Here is another shot of a big one:

I'd sure love to find out more about the plants growing around our home. I did not grow up in this area and know very little about it. I'd sure like that to change.

I love living with trees all around. I thought this little clearing the kids and Kurt made last year looked so pretty in the early light.

Makes me want to take a walk through the woods.


The Gingerbread House said...

I was happy to see your "Doings" today...first I wondered if you were ill....but I knew the Wonder Woman had plenty going on ..and was waiting to share....I love your little turkey chicks< what fun (right along with work :o) and I wish I could help with identifying the plants , but I don't have a clue...Doesn't it feel great to eat from your own Homestead, how blessed for those that get a taste of it....

Carissa said...

Everything looks great! I long for the day when I can have a real garden and not just a few pots. The tress is not like any sassafras that I've ever seen, but it could be. Usually they have mitten shaped leaves as well, and the trilobal ones are a bit deeper and more rounded. But if you soil is that poor, it may have affected the trees as well. Sassafras leaves have a distinctive aroma when picked/crushed. Have you tried that?

monica said...

All of your pictures are so amazing! It's too hot here for me to have a good vegetable garden so I'll just live vicariously through yours.

Theresa said...

I loved the tour of your garden and reading here and on the list about what you are doing to build it up. That Peaceful Valley place is 1.5 hours from me (right between me and Debra G.) The turkeys are cute! I can't wait to see more of your "doings"!

Holly said...

Congratulations on your turkeys! And your garden footage is fabulous! I loved reading about the brix concept. Very interesting! Makes me wonder where my soil is on the continuum.

Meg (from The Wardrobe Channel) said...

Came across this post while trying to ID some weeds of my own.

The fern-like plant with the seeds underneath is a type of phyllanthus (also called gripe weed, leafflower, or chamber bitters). I'm pretty sure it is either phyllanthus urinaria or mayba amara. We have tons of it around where I live in Florida.

Take this with a huge grain of salt, but you might find this interesting: