Friday, June 10

Friday Farm Photo: Have a Freshly Picked Weekend.

Any plans this weekend? Summer has already arrived in full force on the farm, with sweat-drenching humidity and temperatures predicted to stay up in the 90's for the next week, so I'll be spending a lot of time watering the kitchen garden and eating mixed green salads.

I also have my eye on the new little gravel-bottomed swimming hole Tractor Joe carved out of our beloved and refreshing wet weather creek, which has been running steady for several weeks thanks to over eight inches of rain in May, though it will probably dry up in the next few days. Tall glasses of fresh mint sun tea that we brew in half-gallon canning jars (we use these jars with plastic lids for so many things), plenty of ice. The spearmint patch is going nuts. Maybe a batch of homemade coconut almond granola, with raisins and organic apple slices I dried last fall and fresh Jersey milk from down the road. A cool and easy, no-think breakfast.

Then there's all that catching up to do in the laundry and dishes department after five days of having no hot water, which actually wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, probably because it isn't the middle of winter. But it sure is nice having the hot water heater working again. Such a luxury we so often take for granted. The cold showers were tolerable but with the amount of cooking and baking I do, heating up vats of water on the stove to wash dishes got old real fast.

My hunky farmguy will be spending the weekend tackling the never ending spring/summer tasks of mowing grass and weedeating around the farmyard with breaks for woodworking, bottling beer, tractor maintenance, and hopefully installing the final new oak step on the staircase. It looks beautiful! The dogs, cats, chickens, sheep, and donkeys will be hoping for treats and chilling out in the shade.

Garden notes: We've slowly been replacing the rotted wood on my fifteen-year-old 4' x 8' raised beds with 12-inch wide fake wood decking boards from Lowe's. (I'm sure there's a real name for this stuff, but I just always call it fake wood.) The cost is about $100 per bed (verses about $2 in local rough-cut pine boards for each of the original 21 beds which started falling apart years ago), but they should theoretically last forever.

We built the first ones a few years ago, and I love them. The height is great, and it also makes it easier to yank garden hoses around without having them jump onto the plants. (The raised beds all supposed to be filled soil, but some of the new ones were put in place last fall around beds that were already planted.)

The metal hoops are made from inexpensive 1/2" EMT (I think it was about $2.50 for a 10-foot piece), shaped using the handy dandy bender we bought last year from Johnny's. Before that Joe had rigged up a homemade version from plywood, but this one works so much better. You can make the hoops taller or shorter depending on how far you push them into the ground, and they also worked fine in a couple of beds that didn't have any sides on them yet.

We have the EMT on eight garden beds so far, and over the winter I covered them with 6 ml thick clear plastic to make mini hoophouses. Then in early spring I removed the plastic and draped old sheets and frost blankets over the frames at night to protect the plants from cold. And when it started to heat up during the days, I clamped old sheets over the beds to shade the cool season lettuce, arugula, and spinach. Both the clear plastic and the old sheets are attached to the hoops with those little 1" quick-grip metal clamps that are so useful around the farm.

The greens in the closest bed are Swiss chard (except for a lone lacinato kale plant), overwintered as tiny plants and now handling the sweltering heat with no problem, which is more than I can say for myself. Plus unlike kale, which I also grow nearly year round, the ravenous cabbage worms (who are out in force) ignore Swiss chard. Unfortunately the striped cucumber beetles (which pretty much decimated nearly everything in my garden last fall during a freak invasion) and the nightmarish blister beetles do like it. Grass clippings make an excellent weed-suppressing mulch.

Those of you who have been visiting here a while know much I love delicious, nutritious, easy-to-grow-from-seed Swiss chard, and that for years I've been on a one farmgirl mission to convince everyone to try growing it. Fordhook Giant (pictured), which makes me think of Jurassic Park because the leaves get so big, always does well here but I especially like the prettier and smaller (and probably more nutritious) red, yellow, and orange varieties.

Our chickens love to eat Swiss chard too, so excess bounty or bug-ravaged leaves never go to waste. In fact I just fed them a 5-gallon bucket full direct seeded spring thinnings from another bed.

Wondering what to do with Swiss chard? Simply toss young leaves in salads, saute chopped stems and bigger leaves in olive oil, or try some Swiss Chard Tuna Salad with Scallions and Kalamatas, Swiss Chard and Artichoke White Pizza, or Swiss Chard Cabbage Salad with Garbanzos and Cottage Cheese.


  1. I love the Fordbrook Giant variety of silver beet. Seems to deter pests here in Brisbane and absolutely delicious steamed very simply, just add a little butter before serving. No allotment should be without it.

  2. Hi Susan,

    Your new garden beds look great! I hope you and Joe have a fantastic gardening season. Stay cool...




December 2015 update: Hi! For some reason I can't figure out, Blogger hasn't been letting me leave comments on my own blog (!) for the last several months, so I've been unable to respond to your comments and questions. My apologies for any inconvenience! You're always welcome to email me: farmgirlfare AT gmail DOT com.

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