My Edible Garden

I've been gardening for most of my life and have been a devoted fan of organic gardening the whole time. It just makes so much more sense to work in harmony with Mother Nature than to fight her. Besides which it is better for the planet and better for our bodies. Here you can see what I'm planting and harvesting, with gardening hints and resources thrown in for good measure.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Mystery Squash Unveiled

Mystery Squash
At the beginning of August, when my squash bed first started producing I couldn't figure out what these things were. They look like a cross maybe between a yellow crookneck and a zucchini. Of course they are nothing I planted. They were much like a zucchini on the inside, bland and watery. (Sorry, that's just the way most summer squash tastes to me; blah.)

Spaghetti Squash?

Then one day I discovered this one on the greenhouse trellis, too big to pick as a summer squash I decided to let it grow and see what it might become.

Reading another blog I decided it is probably a spaghetti squash. Not something I planted as I'm not fond of the taste, so it must of sprouted out of the compost, but where it came from to begin with I don't have a clue. Even if it turns out to be something else, it will at least be some chicken food.

squash jungle

The roots are some where in the tangle of plants in the foreground and it has run all over the greenhouse and up onto the roof with the other squash. It's the plant with the biggest bright green leaves running up the middle. (click on the pic to see it bigger).

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Permaculture is a method of designing (pretty much the principles can be applied to designing anything) where we look for how energy flows in and out. On our homesteads major energy flows include sunlight, water, wind, mulch and manure materials as well as animals people. Gaia's Garden is a great beginner's book about designing permaculture gardens to help you get started. One of the great ideas I like from permaculture is to put your chicken coop and other animal shelters at the top of a slope and your garden at the bottom. That way the manure and bedding will work it's way down the hill to land where it's most needed, in the garden. Permaculture also teaches us that there is no waste in nature. Leftover/waste material from one operation becomes the fuel for the next. Personally I'm working on a  zero waste household. I have a long ways to go, but it gets better all the time. (Look in your trash can; most of what you throw away every day is food packaging. If you are growing your own, there isn't any packaging to throw away!)

For loads of free e-books about a variety of sustainable living topics, from building healthy soils, caring for animals, organic farming, health and many others, visit the Permaculture Media Blog's listing of free books.

Another great resource is Journey to Forever's Small Farm Library. This listing contains many agricultural classics on the importance of soil and health.

We really don't need to spend a lot of money to make our homes actually pay us to live there. A garden of fresh fruits and vegetables pays big dividends in providing us health promoting food at little expense. A few small animals such as rabbits, chickens and ducks can provide our meat and eggs. They also help recycle garden and food waste to help increase the fertility of our soil so we can grow more food. This means less waste goes to the land fill and less things we need to bring in from the outside. This is in direct contrast to Big Ag which uses up large amounts of oil & natural gas for machinery as well as fertilizers and for packaging and transportation.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Solar Food Dehydrator

Solar food dehydrator

I spotted this Solar Food Dehydrator on another blog, Naturewitch And realized that something about it looked very familiar. The blogger had purchased it ready made but I didn't remember ever seeing one like this for sale.

Cruising back through my bookmarks and downloaded documents, I found it. The plans were originally published by the Cooperative Extension Office, Mississippi State University.

You can download the plans for free from the link. They are basic blue print type plans without a  lot of detail or instruction, but I think any reasonably handy person should be able to figure them out and make one. Even during our monsoon season this design should work reasonably well. You could add a small exhaust fan to pull the air through faster during our cloudy and more humid days, to help prevent any mold from growing. The rest of the year, with our dry sunny days, no extra help should be needed. I have a big old window that I think would work just fine for the front peice. Just have to scrounge up some decent lumber for the rest!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Harvest Monday

Buttercup Squash
Welcome to Harvest Monday! This is a great blog hop sponsored by Daphne's Dandelions; do drop in and visit with other gardeners from around the world!

This week I picked the first couple of Buttercup squash that looked ready, that is their stems were pretty dried up. These two will be marked for seed as I'm pretty sure the other squash nearby were not blooming when these two were set.

Baby Blue Hubbard
There were some Baby Blue Hubbards ready also.

White & yellow scallop squash

Along with some scalloped squash and of course some Tromboncinno (I didn't take a pic of the ones I picked)

Aunt Molly's Ground Cherry
There were also finally enough ground cherries to actually register on the scale, these weighed about 1 ounce altogether. I've been getting like one at a time for awhile, but one doesn't even make the scale blink. They are related to tomatillo but have a lovely sweet fruity taste.


Besides the usual harvest of small tomatoes, I finally got a few bigger ones. Top row is Italian Heirloom, next some volunteer paste, the 3rd row is Amish Paste and at the bottom is another volunteer.

The greenhouse has become a dark shady retreat, I'm pretty short but the squash vines are hanging down so much even I'm having a hard time getting through this jungle. The Tromboncinno have really been putting out a lot of squash, there are several large ones hiding in here, as well as more buttercups and some surprise spaghetti squash. I'll have to do a post just on that one alone!

I also picked about 1 1/2 pounds of yellow wax beans, but forgot to take a picture of them. Got a few eggs from the hens, their molty so not laying much.

You can see the outside of the greenhouse and the sea of squash on this post. That post also shows off some the youngest ducklings I have but this one shows most of the Muscovies that I bought in July.

I will be culling the flock and putting meat in the freezer just as soon as the weather begins to cool off a little more. I really hate having to fight the yellow jackets when I'm dressing meat!

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Muscovy Ducks

Drake #1
Remember back  a couple months ago, I bought some Muscovy ducks? Well here are a few of them, the ones I am probably going to keep. It looks like I may have 5 ducks (girls) and 6 drakes (boys). Muscovy ducks are from South America and the drakes get very large. They are fast growing and good for meat. I'm not sure what these different colors and patterns are called yet, I'm still figuring that out.

The drakes are still growing in their wing feathers. Some of them look a bit ratty because some of the ducks were pulling the drakes feathers, even to the point of blood. (I thought they were small mean drakes doing it, but they look more like ducks...go figure)

Drake #2
 From some of my research, this pattern of dark black/blue/green with white on the wings resembles the wild coloring.

Drake #2 is actually the biggest of all. I have no idea how much he weighs, my little kitchen scale is of no use here!

Drake #3

I don't know what they call this color, fawn, buff, something else.

Duck #1
Duck #2

These first two ducks are very similar. There are a couple of drakes with the same coloring, but they have what is called 'angel wing', a condition I don't know much about, which might be hereditary or environmental. Since I have plenty of drakes to choose from, the angel wingers are destined to become dinner.

Duck #2

Duck #3

Ducks #2 & 3 match Drake #3

Duck #5
Duck #5 has the same patterning on her breast as drake #1.

Next spring I will probably breed ducks 2&3 to drake #3, breed duck #5 to drake #1 and ducks 1&2 to drake #2, at least on the first go round. (Muscovy hens may hatch as many as 3 broods a year). I think I would like to keep all of the first hatches for awhile, at least until I can see the sex and color they will be. Then I'll probably sell some and eat some. Later hatches I'll probably sell them all, unless I switch the drakes around; then I'll have to keep some more ;-)

Muscovy ducks are very quiet, they do not quack like other ducks. These make a soft whirring sound that I can't imitate or describe.  They are also not as excitable as the other ducks I have. When I come in the gate they just waddle over and stand in front of me, wagging their tails and waiting for treats.

When I figure out the names of the colors/patterns I'll come back and add them into this post.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Ducks and the Garden

Welsh Harlequin drakelet
The mixed lot of ducklings that I got back the end of June are really growing up now. It appears that I just might have a pair of purebred Welsh Harlequins. Isn't this drakelet just the most handsome fella ever?

The trio behind him are definately mixed breed, crested and Indian runner crossed with the Harlequin.

Welsh Harlequin ducklet

This ducklet is possibly also pure WH but I can't be positive for awhile; as adults the ducks are supposed to have a nearly black bill and light legs.

Back garden squash
And here is the squash that ate the house. This view of the back garden shows the squash covering the greenhouse frame and clambering onto the roof. The window screens in the foreground are covering a seeding of beets and radish. The four Amish Paste tomatoes that I have left out of eight are on the right.

This photo was taken from the right side of those tomato plants. In the lower right are the yellow wax beans and some red amaranth. In the center front is the bed of summer squash, several yellow patty pans and a yellow zucchini. I was getting a really weird looking zuke, it looked like a cross between a zuke and a crook neck. Tasted just like a zuke. I missed some and they got huge; I'm thinking that they are spaghetti squash that came out of my compost. The squash leaves with silver markings in the front are the yellow zuke. The ones with silver markings on the house are the Tromboncinno.  The really huge deep green leaves running right up the center are the spaghetti squash. (remember you can click on the pictures to see them larger). The squash vines have all grown over the paths and make it difficult to work in the garden. But they will not be around but another couple months so I think I can manage. Also they will grow slower as the weather cools off.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Permaculture Growing

Permaculture bed June 23, 2012
Permaculture is  a concept that I have just been learning about the last three years or so. Taken altogether permaculture is actually more a design method rather than a gardening technique. Permaculture aims to provide for people while also providing and caring for nature. The principles can be applied to anything you are doing, from designing a landscape, a community, a home or even a business.

One of the things that permaculture stresses is to make everything multi-functional, called 'stacking functions'. One example would be to build a trellis over a deck or patio for shade and grow a grape vine on it to provide shade and fruit in summer, as well as bird and insect habitat, while still allowing warm sunshine in during winter when it is welcome.

Another example is to plant a bed with a variety of vegetables, annuals, bi-annuals and even perennials  all mixed together. As you harvest the fastest growers you leave room for the other plants to mature.

I experimented with the concept this summer. This small bed in my front yard gets a  far amount of afternoon shade, helping to keep it a little cooler than more open areas. In mid-May I planted salad bowl lettuce and some Golden Bantam corn. It was still just cool enough to get the lettuce to sprout. The lettuce acted as a kind of ground cover, helping shade the soil and keep moisture in and gave me several cuts of leaves before it got too hot.

As the lettuce disappeared in the heat I planted some white scallop summer squash. I also allowed a few edible weeds to grow. (I did take out that sunflower in the first picture; this type has tiny seeds which the gold finches love, but it produces a huge amount of pollen that really causes my allergies to act up).

Permaculture bed Aug 22, 2012
Here is the bed today, the corn has been harvested and the squash is slowing down. There are still a lot of red root pigweeds in here that I harvest for the rabbits and chickens. Pigweed is a type of wild amaranth and has a good protein level, besides the animals love it.

This bed is not very big, about 34" wide and 8' long, making it less than 24 square feet of growing space. Also it is a fairly new bed so the fertility of the soil is not up to full speed yet.

Despite these problems it has been fairly productive, so far this year it has yielded about 5 pounds of lettuce, 3 pounds of squash (with more on the vine) and 10 ears of sweet corn. In addition it has contributed several buckets of amaranth and lambs quarters to feed the rabbits and chickens. I'll be experimenting with this concept some more next year and in the meantime I'll be working to boost the soil's fertility and organic matter.

To learn more about permaculture, it's principles and ideals and how to apply it to your garden I highly recommend Gaia's Garden by Toby Hemenway

Monday, August 20, 2012

Harvest Monday

beans, tomatoes, chili
Welcome to Harvest Monday! I really enjoy this visiting with other garden bloggers over at Daphne's Dandelions each week.

The small tomatoes continue to come in, not as heavy as at the beginning of the summer, but still respectable harvests. The larger tomatoes, Black from Tula, Amish Paste, Italian Heirloom come one or two at a time, along with some round red and paste volunteers. The patch of yellow wax beans are going strong and a trickle of green chili is coming in.

eggplant twins

This time of year often brings odd and deformed squash, but this week it was a twin eggplant.

Squash and eggplants

This week the squash were not as prolific, but the eggplants gave a good harvest.

Butterfly on small sunflowers

The are tons of bees, yellow jackets and flies, with a few butterflies around

tromboncinno squash

Here are two of the Tromboncinno squash on the greenhouse frame. One is now about 40 inches long, the other one is longer and has touched the ground and is now growing in a curve. I'm leaving these for winter squash. I have several more; some are coiled up like snakes. With all the leaves it is hard to get pictures of some of them.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Mobile Chicken Coop

My new coop is finished except for a couple of minor things like finding my tin snips so I can fit the metal on the roof to the edges better and nail it down all the way around and putting actual roosts inside.

It is now installed in the new pen and the older chickens have been moved in. I've also moved a couple of 'meaners' ducks in with them. These are some Muscovy's that are pulling feathers and are generally being mean to the other ducks.

This coop is inside an enclosure of 6' chicken wire with two strands of electric fence for predator prevention.

Once I moved out the big chickens and the meaner ducks I was able to open up the baby pen and let out the little ducklings. I think I might have a pair of pure Welsh Harlequins, while the other three look like crosses with some Harlequin markings, runner duck bodies and one with a crest on its head.

As soon as the weather cools off a bit more I will be having some duck dinners as most of the 11 Muscovys that I bought appear to be drakes.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Harvest Monday

squash glut with a few peppers
Time for my favorite time of the week, Harvest Monday! A great blog hop sponsored by Daphne's Dandelions, cruise on over and visit with gardeners from around the world.

My apologies to the other Harvest Monday participants last week. Usually I am able to go around, read and comment on every post, but last week I was having internet connection problems and didn't make it until Thurs. I did read all the wonderful posts and drooled over all of your beautiful produce, I just did not have time to comment. Hopefully this will be a better week!

Last week saw a huge amount of squash, a few sweet and chili peppers.

yellow wax beans
My first picking of yellow wax beans, about a pound.

Kentucky Wonder & Yellow Wax beans

Then a bit more than a pound of mixed beans, Kentucky Wonder pole and Yellow Wax bush. Yes I needed a ladder to get some of the KW!

all blue potatoes
Some of the All Blue potatoes died in the heat so I dug them up. A pathetic showing of tiny potatoes. It is just too hot for 100 day potatoes as a spring planted crop. Next year I will save them to plant in June, hopefully they will do better.

eggplant # 9

Eggplant #9 is a bigger, later plant than the others have been, with slightly larger fruit. For size reference, that's a salad plate, not a dinner plate.

I have several large Tromboncinno squash I am letting mature for use as winter squash. This one is barely getting going and is already 32 inches long. The one next to it (not pictured) is 36". 

mobile coop

And the new mobile coop is almost finished. The nest boxes are done and half the roof is on. I need to make a plywood shutter for the open section on this end, the other end and a strip above the nest boxes. But it will be pretty usable just as soon as I get the roof on!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Mid Summer Re-Cap

Since I just got all of my harvest records for the year finally put into a spread sheet, I thought I'd celebrate by doing a bit of a recap of the garden year so far.

January was a bit sparse, due to a lack of planting in the fall. Most of the harvest was salad greens, with a few radishes, beets and turnips. Total weight was 7.54 pounds, worth $28.75. (at average equivalent retail pricing)

February was more of the same, with a wider variety of greens, herbs and edible flowers coming in, along with broccoli and pea shoots. February's harvest was 12.88 pounds, worth $56.47.
 March was more salad mix, along with carrots, turnips, celery. peas, green onions and mixed greens for cooking. March's harvest weighed 25.63 pounds, worth $81.05 March also saw the beginnings of the poultry flock, with the purchase of 4 hens and a rooster.

April gave lots more salad mix and cooking greens plus two types of snow peas, broccoli, asparagus and my first ever artichoke.

May gave even more greens, artichokes, strawberries, purple beans, potatoes and the first small tomatoes. May's harvest weighed 21.575 pounds and was worth $90.85.

In June the garden really started revving up, while for the most part tender salad greens were non-existent, many other things were coming right along, potatoes, carrots, cooking greens, lots of tomatoes along with peaches and plums. June's harvest weighed 101.88 pounds, worth $314.61. June also saw an expansion of the poultry flock with 5 ducklings.

July's harvest topped June's by a few pounds and a greater variety. More tomatoes, corn, eggplant, squash, summer apples and herbs. July's harvest totals were 112.41 pounds worth $195.49. July saw a large leap in the poultry flock with the acquisition of 4 Welsummer poults, 11 Muscovy ducks and a broody hen hatching out 4 chicks.

Total year to date, from an average size yard, not fully developed or planted yet, is 311 pounds of fruits and vegetables worth $747.22. And of course the year is only half over. I have a feeling that August to December will bring in even more than the first half of the year did. For one thing, fall will bring lots of pumpkins and winter squash. Also I'll be planting a lot of crops for the fall and winter months as well as things that will winter over and be harvested early next spring.

I haven't yet rounded up all my receipts and tallied up expenses, but I'm pretty sure that even with the high price of water this summer I'll come out to the good when all is said and done.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Harvest Monday

a days harvest
Welcome to Harvest Monday. Sponsored by Daphne's Dandelions, this blog hop is a great way to share  your harvest and visit gardeners from around the world.

Well I've had some good harvests this week but I was not very good about taking pictures! But this was typical, eggplant, squash and tomatoes are the major items coming out of the garden right now.

Florence Red Bottle onions
I pulled out the Florence Red Bottle onions. They are not very big, but that is because the tomatoes crawled over them and shaded them so much. I'll weigh them either as I use them or when they have dried off and been cleaned.

In the meantime there are many other things going on; trying to get things tidied up and fall crops planted, the new chicken coop and pen built. You can see a garden tour in this post and the new mobile chicken coop in this one.

I've also been busy trying to get all my production data entered into a spread sheet. When I'm caught up to date I'll be revamping my harvest records here.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Coop Update

chicken door open
Well I have worked most of the day on this new, mobile coop. In this picture, there is just a solid peice of thin plywood on the left That is the side the nest boxes will be on. Then the chicken door-cum-ramp in the middle. The right side will be chicken wire with a plywood shutter like the long side.

chicken door closed

Coop from the handle end

Here you can see I got the plywood shutters on over the chicken wire.

Shutters on the coop

Here you can see the plywood shutters I made on the long side, so I can prop them open for ventilation or if the weather is really nasty, like when it snows in the winter, I can close them.

It's been a lot of work the last two days getting things this far. I have tomorrow off, so I'll be working on the nest boxes, a door big enough for me to crawl in if ever necessary and the roof.

chicks hatched July 20.2012

And this evening I said goodby to the cute little chicks. They are going to a great home with 3 adorable young ladies who were very excited to have them!

And in other news it looks like I may have duck dinner quicker than I had planned. There are definitely too many Muscovy drakes and 2 of them are pulling the feathers of several other ducks and making them bleed. So they shall soon be dinner!