Tuesday, March 15, 2016

You're Wiggling, Baby! A Worm Farm Comes to Fat Earth!

I have a confession to make: I do NOT like worms. They're wriggly and slimy and GROSS. But boy do they do a lot for my garden soil, so I have learned to get over my fear. Okay, not really, but I don't jump ten feet when I come across them anymore.

Any how, you may be wondering why I am talking about worms. Well, I have been wanting to try vermicomposting for years, but I just didn't have the opportunity to get around to it. But when I happened to find a worm factory on Craigslist for 45.00, I quickly snatched it up. That's the square orange containers you see stacked on the left there. (I also made a visit to my local co-op and picked up some broccoli seedlings, seed starter mix to start my seeds, and those buckets were less than a dollar a piece!)

I'm not the best at turning my compost, so I figured this is the second best way to make use of my food scraps. I'll let the worms do all the work. I love that the lid has instructions on how and what to feed the worms. And vermicompost, or worm poop as I like to call it, is SO great for your plants!!! I've purchased it from my local co-op and seen amazing results. Well, now I'll be able to have my own. I'm looking forward to starting my worm factory indoors in the laundry room. What's that? Will it smell? Not if you do it properly. I have a gardening friend that keeps her worm factory in her living room (yup...she's got a fancy decorative looking one), and no one believes it's a worm factory until she shows them! I will eventually move my worm factory outdoors into a shady spot (so I don't cook my worms) once it warms up just a bit more.

I'll be taking pictures to do a step-by-step blog post on how I set up the worm factory, so don't worry if you want to try and this and don't know how. But that comes later after I order the worms!

In case you are wondering what worms like to eat, here's a list:


  • all vegetables (table and preparation scraps, peels, and veggies that are past their prime)
  • all fruits (table scraps, peels, and cores...but be careful to avoid large amounts of citrus)
  • starches (pancakes, pasta, rice, pizza crusts, cereal, crackers, stale bread)
  • "healthy" snacks: coffee grounds and filters, crushed egg shells, tea bags (without staples), dead flowers and plants (non-diseased), leaves, and plant trimmings.
The only thing you have to be sure to do is chop up their food into tiny pieces to make it easy for them to eat.

The next thing you may be wondering is "can I just dig up worms from my yard to put in the bin?" 

The answer to that is no. The reason is because the worms in your garden are earthworms. The type of worms you need for vermicomposting are called manure worms, or red wigglers (if you fish). Here's a great article on selecting worms for your worm bin. Oh, and Uncle Jim's Worm Farm is a great place to order your worms online (I have friends that have ordered from them and are very happy with their shipments!).

Other than food and the worms, the only other thing you'll need to add to your worm bins is moist newspaper torn into thin strips, or coconut coir, which you can buy from your local nursery. But I'll explain more about that when I actually go through the setup in a later blog post. 

Well, I think that's garden gals and guys! I'm looking forward to getting my worms and getting this all set up and sharing it all with you! If you have any questions, feel free to leave comments here on the blog! 

Until next time.....

Happy gardening!


Monday, March 7, 2016

Winter is falling, winter is falling!!!


Helloooooooo there garden gals and guys! It's been six months since my last post for the season, which you may remember ended with me picking apples from my apple tree and making a pie with them. Did you miss me? I certainly missed being able to share my garden goodness with you all.

Well, winter is finally giving way to spring, and I'm ready to get things rolling. I've already fallen a little behind because I haven't ordered my seeds yet and seed-starting time is just around the corner! Eeek! But at least I have the seeds picked out that I want. I just have to place my order. I think I'll be doing that sometime this week.

As my thoughts turn toward my little backyard farm, I'm thinking of things I have always wanted to try and deciding what I can tackle this year. First, I'm definitely doing the rain gutter grow system again.The garden soil needs at least another year of rest before I attempt to going back to planting in the ground. But I think the main thing that I am going try this year is having a worm farm! Yup! I've always wanted one, and they are pretty easy to do. I've always loved the results that compost have in my garden, so why not get some worms and let them contribute to the daily chores of my little backyard farm!

Speaking of composting, I'm also going to start spinning my compost tumblers and turn all that chicken poop I've been cleaning out of the coop this winter into even more fertilizer. Who knows, I may even start selling small bags of it on Craigslist. All I need to do is come up with a catchy name. Maybe something like Precious Poop. :-)

You may remember that last year I canned for the first time. Well, I think I will do that again this year. Though I won't can green beans. I just didn't use them as much as I thought I would. I'll do more tomatoes, and definitely make more salsa, as the six pints I made went very quickly during our big snowstorm!

I also plan to buy at my local farmers markets again. There's only so much space in my backyard, and I just can't grow everything that I would like to grow. I've made a mental note of the things we buy a lot of in the winter months. Frozen fruits and salad greens are high on our list. So, to save some money, I will be buying blueberries, peaches, and strawberries in bulk this year and freezing them for the winter months. Salad greens don't freeze too well, so I will still have to go to the store for those once winter is upon us again.

You might be wondering how the girls are doing. Well my little egg-laying ladies made it just fine through the winter. They even survived their first molting and managed to grow their feathers back before the first really cold days of winter (I was a little worried there for a minute!). They even survived that huge snow storm we had. They were very happy when we dug them out of this situation with our handy dandy snow blower!

Yeah, that's the coop! Buried under about two feet of snow. But, once hubby dug them out with the snow blower, they were happy campers! Here's a little video of hubby rescuing the girls:


video

I'm pretty proud of my little ladies. They are tough. Once we cleared an area for them to scratch around in, they had no complaints. They even managed to lay eggs all the way through winter. Some days only one or two would lay, but I'm okay with that, especially since about three weeks ago they started ramping back up to full production again!

Well, I think I've gotten you back up to speed on the Fat Earth Backyard Farm. So, you know what I'm about to say.....

Until next time garden gals and guys!

Happy gardening!!










Sunday, September 13, 2015

It's Apple Time!

Hello garden gals and guys! Yes, it has been a while since my last blog post. My plants have given about all that they can give and, honestly, I get a little tired toward the end of the season (there, I admitted it!).

But I just had to write today because I harvested apples from Carmela the Apple Tree (named after my maternal grandmother) for the first time! They have such great "snap" to them (as my hubby likes to say) and they are sweet but also a little tart! SO delicious! Kind of remind me of a Granny Smith.

I bought this apple tree on sale for five dollars three years ago. It is a dwarf Goldrush apple tree. It said I would get apples by the second year. Well, year two provided not so much as a blossom. Hmph. This past winter, the center branch was getting really, really tall. I went out there--in the middle of winter-- and cut the central stem back.

Now, this is a BIG no-no when pruning your trees. After I did this, some blossoms grew on the tree (yes, in the middle of winter). Everything I read said that the tree would now die because you are never to prune in the winter months.

Well, this spring, my tree was LOADED with blossoms! This is what I call a great gardening accident. Today, I picked a whole LARGE BOWL full of apples. I also made an apple pie too! But enough talk, I'll let the pictures tell the story.

There were more apples on the tree than branches!

Front shot of me and "Carmela"


Had to reach up high to get the last four!


I was just tickled pink (like my shirt)!


Proud mama with her first apple harvest!


Now, here's the best part. My daughter and I made an apple pie from scratch! The crust may not be magazine worthy, but we made it ourselves!!


Yummmmmmmy!!!!! Time to eat!!

Until next time (I'll be posting about the corn I harvested soon...stay tuned!)...

Happy gardening!!!!!














Friday, August 14, 2015

Maya Angelou & My Garden

Hello garden gals and guys! You may be wondering what in the WORLD Dr. Maya Angelou has to do with my garden, but just keep reading. I promise I haven't flipped my lid! I was in NC this past weekend to celebrate my mom's 70th birthday party. As you may (or may not) know, Dr. Maya Angelou lived in Winston-Salem, which is only about 20 or so minutes from my folks' home.

Well, we needed a diversion to get my mom out of the house, so that everyone could arrive and set up for her surprise birthday party. It was an amazing coincidence that Dr. Angelou's family decided to have an estate sale on the day of my mother's surprise party.

Maya Angelou is my MOST favorite author of ALL time. The opportunity to walk in her home was one I couldn't pass up. So myself, my mom, and three of my cousins piled in my mom's minivan and off we went!

When we arrived, there was no parking on the street. But her neighbors shamefully took advantage of this and were selling spots in their driveways for five bucks a piece. We, of course, paid because my mother cannot walk far distances.

The first thing we did was take pictures in front of the estate sale. This is my solo picture:


After about two hours in line (I think?), we finally made it through the front gate. They were letting folks in by groups of 30. Here is a picture my cousin took of the front of Dr. Angelou's home. That is my beautiful younger cousin in the forefront, with me in the background with my daughter, preparing to take a picture of me on the front porch:

Photo courtesy of my wonderful cousin, Maria.

Here I am on her porch. I just imagined that she greeted many people on those steps, and I had to capture the moment.



Here is another picture of me, my mom, my daughter, and my cousins at the front gate to Dr. Angelou's home.



When I stepped inside of her home, I had to stop at the front door. I just couldn't believe that I was standing there! It was a very auspicious moment for me. All I could think was "this is where she was....a woman I admired more deeply than I can express." I actually got very teary-eyed. I don't think anyone understood how much it meant for me to be there.

Well, most everything was gone by the time we got there on Saturday (the sale began the previous Thursday). What was left were towels, sheets, LOTS of books, paintings (which were THOUSANDS of dollars!), and other odds and ends. Everyone was buying her books and other household items. I truly wish I could have afforded this painting. It is the way I remember her most from my years as a young woman:


As we were walking through the home, what impressed me most was how simple her home was inside. It was very dated. Pink walls and pink carpet, dated bathrooms, simple curtains. It really took me aback. Here was the home of one of the most magnificent minds to walk this Earth, and her home was just....home. Here is a picture of her kitchen. I imagine she had many wonderful moments here, cooking for family, and friends (like Oprah!):


Do you see what I mean? There is nothing at all pretentious about this kitchen. Oh the wisdom that must have been shared around wonderful meals in that place. It was humbling. I think people missed it when they were there, which made me sad. People were acting like vultures...moving with reckless abandon through every room grabbing whatever they could. They truly missed what this moment was. 

I didn't know it at the time, but my mother bought me a cooking pan from Dr. Angelou's kitchen..for a dollar! It was worth far more than that to me! I will smile every time I use it (and maybe wax a little poetic). 



While everyone else was grabbing paintings, books, and other things, I ventured outside. Y'all know I love farming/gardening, so when I saw this, I let out a little yelp. It was her greenhouse!


I know she was an immensely busy woman, but I'd like to think she spent some time in here. Here is another view of the path from the backyard up to the greenhouse. I have to give my cousin, Maria, credit for this beautiful photo.

Photo courtesy of my cousin, Maria.

When I walked in, I found a green basket (which matched my purse exactly). It was sitting there, covered in some dirt and spider webs, of no value to anyone. I cleaned it off for the picture.


I found two more of them in another small storage area in the back of the house. I paid a dollar a piece for them. Here is a picture of me in the greenhouse with my treasured find.

Photo courtesy of my cousin, Maria. 

The grounds of her home were truly an oasis. I could see her there, shutting herself off from the world, slowing down to enjoy time with family and dear friends. 

Here is a photo I took of part of the back of her home. It was really quite large, and I don't want to make this post too long with too many pictures. The backyard was very large, as well. At one time there was a pool and a tennis court, which are now concrete patios (thank you for that nugget of information, Dawn!) 


Here is a picture of me and my daughter on Dr. Angelou's deck. Again, I pictured Dr. Angelou there, letting the many trees that surrounded the perimeter of her yard blow gentle breezes upon her face.


Next up is this masterpiece, where I imagine many cookouts have taken place. Now, see that planting there to the right? That is a fig tree. I asked one of the staff if I could have a cutting of it to take home with me. He said yes, and didn't charge me for it!


I do hope my cutting takes. I put it in water immediately and cared for it until we got back home to Maryland. So, that was my little adventure for the weekend...and what a weekend it was! When I got back home, I put a little rooting compound on the bottom of that cutting, and placed it in a pot I bought just for it. I named her Maya.

So, from Dr. Angelou's greenhouse to mine, here are the baskets and my cutting:

You only see two of the three baskets I bought in this picture. That's because I used the other to harvest my tomatoes that ripened while I was away. 


I treasure every word that Dr. Maya Angelou chose to share with the world. But I never dreamed that I would have something of my very own to treasure that once belonged to her. 

So, that's it garden gals and guys. Until next time....

Happy gardening!!!





















Monday, July 27, 2015

It's versatile, it's practical, it's Connect A Pot!

Hello garden gals and guys! It's been a little bit since my last post. Every once in a while, I blog about really cool gardening products that I read about that I think would be really cool to use in the garden. Well, get ready, because I interviewed Kirk Dyer, of Connect A Pot, and he has a great product to share. But don't take my word for it, read the interview for yourself!

Fat Earth: Tell me a little about your company and who you are.

Kirk: G'day, I'm Kirk, an Australian native and the designer/founder behind Desima. The company was
Hanging Connect A Pot, Image courtesy Kirk Dyer
started, as I saw a gap in the market for garden products for those living in smaller apartments or who don't have much spare space. Urban gardening & urban farming have become popular terms these days, but these endeavors still require a decent amount of land. My goal is to create functional quality and a beautiful product for those people with a limited amount of space. The long term personal goal is more than the "Connect A Pot", which I will be launching via the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter.

The dream is to create a company here in China, which really influences the culture. As you probably are aware of, this is a country that has totally trashed its environment. So I'm starting small, to raise enough capital to get the business going before moving on to other products. I firmly believe the more people can interact with nature during their day-to-day lives, the more they will want to care for it. In the future, I'll be looking at products that help educate people about natural systems. These future products will require a lot more capital, so that's why I am starting with the much more affordable "Connect A Pot"


Image courtesy of Kirk Dyer, Connect A Pot
Fat Earth: What is the "Connect A Pot"?

Kirk: The "Connect A Pot" is the first step in getting my business of the ground. It's a fun little pot which is incredibly versatile and practical. You can place it on your desk, your fridge, your windows, or hang it. Perhaps you want to grow a few herbs or just enjoy a few ornamentals. I suggest it would also be great for your desk at work.

Fat Earth: What material is it made from and is it safe to grow food in (I know it obviously is...but you'd be surprised the questions people will ask)?

Kirk: The upper part is made from BPA/phthalate-free polypropylene and the bottom is made from polycarbonate. I really spent a lot of time researching different plastics and what is the safest way. You probably notice lots of plastic pots/plants are really thin, this is not healthy because if the pots do deteriorate from the UV sunlight, it means the plastic is breaking down and going into your plants soil. The "Connect A Pot" is white, this way it reflects more sunlight/UV rays. It's also much thicker plastic at 2.5mm. This means that if it ever did break down, which would take a long time, it would not reach where the plastic is in contact with the soil. There's still a lot research to be done in the area of plastics and what effects it has on plants and, eventually, your body. I've done the best I can to make the "Connect A Pot" safe. Creating 100% healthy and environmentally friendly products is not easy. I've been working really close with a factory here, making sure things are safe. The workers are happy and the boss treats them well. I know this wasn't a part of your question, but I felt I should cover it also. Any other concerns, ask away!

Fat Earth: How did you come up with the idea?
Image courtesy Kirk Dyer, Connect a Pot

Kirk: I was visiting a friend in Hong Kong who was showing me a few self-watering pot plants. I thought the idea was great, but was missing a design flair. They were too big for your desk or counter top in your kitchen. Also, not everyone has space on their desk. So with this is mind, I addressed these issues and came up with something much more versatile, whilst keeping the low maintenance self-watering function.


Fat Earth: Who can use Connect A Pot?

Kirk: The "Connect A Pot' is for anyone ages 10 and up. If you have a little space at home where you would love to have a plant, perhaps a cute little succulent or a few herbs growing. You can really mix it up, place them on the front of your fridge or why not get creative and connect them together in a creative pattern. Make a unique arrangement for yourself. Hang a few in sunny window. 

Fat Earth: What can you grow in these pots?
Image courtesy Kirk Dyer, Connect A Pot

Kirk: Certain herbs, ornamentals, succulents, anything with short roots. My favorites, though, are the succulents, as these plants need good drainage and the excess water can just run through to the bottom.

Fat Earth: Can they be used both indoors and outdoors?

Kirk: Certainly, indoors, outdoors, wherever you like. Just pay attention to how much sunlight and water your plants need. The succulents, for example, you would only have the water fill the bottom to a 1/3, otherwise it will become too humid in the pot. 

Fat Earth: What is crowdfunding and why are you using it?

Kirk: Crowdfunding is the practice of funding a project by raising monetary contributions from a large number of people, typically via the Internet. Basically, you preorder the "Connect A Pot' and if enough people do this, I have the money to go make it and everybody gets their product. If enough people don't preorder, then I get no money and you are not charged. It's all-in or nothing.  I've turned to crowdfunding as way to raise the money required for the expensive tooling and it's a great way for people to know about my product.

Fat Earth: Where can people get more information?

Kirk: I highly recommend you go my site here, http://bit.ly/Connect_A_Pot to sign up for the newsletter. You will know exactly when the product is launched on Kickstarter. I won't spam you, because I hate spam too. 


So, there you have it garden gals and guys!! Please be sure to sign up for his newsletter so you can be one of the first to support his project! 

Kirk, here's wishing all the best to your project! 

Until next time garden gals and guys...

Happy gardening!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Tips on How to Break Away From the Grocery Store...A Little at a Time

Hello garden gals and guys! My "No More Grocery Store" challenge is progressing quite nicely. I'm not where I want to be yet, but each day I move closer to my goal. Hey, do you mind if we chat for a minute? Real talk? Ok, good.

Do you know what it means to eat seasonally? You may or may not, but your grandparents did. It just means eating what's ready for harvest based on what season it is. Now you may ask "what did they during the winter months?" The answer is really quite simple: whatever they preserved during the summer.

Okay, so maybe you are asking what is the point of that last paragraph. The point is that we need to get back to doing things the way our grandparents did. Is it possible? Absolutely! A little at a time. How? by growing your own food, shopping at farmers markets, and preserving and storing the harvest for the winter.

Okay, I have a confession to make. I have been wanting to can for years. I bought a pressure canner 3 years ago and it sat unused until this year because I was scared to try canning. I had these visions of my pressure canner exploding and blowing my face off. :-) Now I realize it was a totally irrational fear. Canning quickly became second nature to me. Now that I am doing it, I feel so silly that I wasted so many years waiting for someone to show me how.

So, if you want to start getting away from the grocery store, but you don't have the time or the inclination to have a garden, you can still have fresh, healthy foods! It just takes a little extra effort on your part. If you are asking if it's really worth it, let me ask you this: how much do you value your health?

Any goal can seem overwhelming and impossible, but if you break it down into smaller steps, you can accomplish anything. So, here is how you can start to make that move away from the grocery store. Think of one thing you really love to eat. It can be meat, cheese, a favorite fruit, or a delicious veggie.

Now, instead of going to the grocery store to buy it, go to Local Harvest and put in your zip code. It should come up with a list of farmers markets and farms near you that sell meat, veggies, etc. Call to confirm the market hasn't changed their day, time, or location, and then make a visit. Buy your favorite item from a farmers market of your choice.

It's that simple. Before you say that farmers markets are too expensive, I want you to try something for me. Buy an item, let's say a tomato, from your grocery store. Then buy one from a farmers market. Take them both home and do a side-by-side taste test. When you notice how much better that local food tastes (and it will taste SO much better), ask yourself if it is worth the extra money.

Now, back to the canning. The winter months pretty much force you to go to the grocery store, right? Well, it doesn't have to be that way. If you can dedicate a few hours on a Saturday or Sunday to canning, dehydrating, or freezing, you can minimize your trips to the grocery store in the winter. If you're really dedicated, you can eliminate having to shop for food all winter. That is the goal I am building towards.

If you are intrigued about this goal, but aren't sure where to start, take a look at this video I did. It's only ten minutes. That's not a long time. I list some great books you can read that will answer a lot of questions you  may have.I also show you my journey to store up for the winter. If I can do it, so can you!



So you can see that I am not where I want to be....yet. But I am taking baby steps. Those baby steps have led to this:



What you see above are 20 quarts of green beans, 8 pints of pickles, 4 quarts of spaghetti sauce, 5 pints of red pepper relish, and 4 pints of salsa. See how the canned foods in my cabinet are slowly being replaced by my own canned goods? Pretty neat, right?

I also have this:


Those are frozen blueberries, blackberries, and broccoli.

Guess what? This is almost all from the farmers market! The only thing that came from my garden was cucumbers for the relish I made (and I didn't have many because squash bugs destroyed my plants), two bulbs of garlic, and cilantro. That's it. The rest of my garden isn't ready to harvest yet.

So, see? You can eat farm-fresh foods without having a garden! You just have to change your routine a little bit. 

Well, I hope I have inspired you to begin your own food journey. Just remember, start small. If you need help, I'm here! Leave your questions in the comments below. Or if you have ideas to help me and other out on this journey, leave your suggestions! They are most welcome, here!

That's all for now garden gals and guys. Until next time....

Happy gardening!




Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Summer's First Harvest, Food for Thought, and Week 12 NMGS

Hello garden gals and guys! Welcome back! It's been almost two weeks since my last post. Summer is definitely here, and the heat and excessive rain have affected my tomato plants. There are lots of green tomatoes, but only my cherry variety has ripened so far. Here is a picture of my little beauties:


They were SO sweet, it was like eating candy! 

Okay, now on to something I'm really excited about. Recently, I was asked by a gardening pal of mine if I would contribute to a series he was doing on his blog. It was truly an honor to be asked to participate, and I really enjoyed writing these two articles. Take a look:



I hope you enjoyed those articles. One epiphany I had while writing them both, is that I am a food activist...and I'm just fine with that! It helps me to be conscious each and every day about the choices I make when it comes to food, and how those choices impact my health, my family, my community, and the environment.

Next up: no more grocery store. The challenge is progressing nicely. I still haven't completely cut out the grocery store yet, but each week I move closer to my goal. Check out what's going on for week 12:



I've got a bit of work ahead of me in the kitchen tomorrow but the end result will be much worth the work. 

Have you tried your local farmers market yet? If so, leave a comment and let me know how you liked it! I love getting feedback here on my blog!

So that's it for now. Until next time garden gals and guys....

Happy gardening!!