The Power of Native Plants – Photo Diary

Pineallple Welcome sign USE        Welcome to our flower garden!

It’s been a very dry summer at the Small House Homestead; our lawn is parched browns and yet today our homestead is being blessed by a life-giving rain. Our thirsty garden and property is soaking up this lovely rain water while our water containment totes are gathering additional water for our autumn transplanting. Thank you Rain Gods!

Pool shack back and burning bish USE FIRST

Grasses, hosta’s and a non-native burning bush behind the pool shack.

SW Michigan is often droughty in late summer and it is for this very reason that I plan mostly native plants. One of the best thing about native plants and grasses is that once established they don’t need much additional water to bloom and continue to look pretty all season long.

VERT Green birdhouse and climber USE

Black Eyed Susan’s add a splash of color and seeds in the bird bed.

I have been watering our newly planted fruit trees every other day using a trickle hose to keep the roots wet but our grass has pretty much gone brown and dormant. It’s pretty ugly now but I know that this is temporary and our lawn will green up nice again when the autumn rain arrives.

Black eyed susans in front of playhouse USE

 Black eyed Susan’s in front of the meadow playhouse.

The blooming flowers pretty much make up for the unpleasant brown grass as the meadow and the blooms of the native plants are absolutely outstanding right now. It’s hard to imaging the grass being so ugly and the garden flowers being so beautiful but that’s the power of natives!

Pool fencing long shot with black Eye Susans

Ornamental grasses and native obscure the required metal chain link fence around the pool.

meadow edge from pool corner USE

Native plants, ornamental grasses and burn out lawn at the meadow.

North Tree line and Black eyed Susans

Some color peeks out at the hardwood forest tree line.

I leave some of our native flowers and ornamental grasses standing in the garden leaving the seeds for the song bird to  eat. And others, like our many brown eyed Susan’s, I let them stand until they have gone to seed. Then once the seed heads are dried and the seeds ready to fall out I cut off the seeds heads and stems and toss them into our ditch and other sunny areas where I want more plants to grow. Our brown eyed Susan’s are just the perfect native plant for easy seed spreading this way.

HORZ crabapple tree bed early a.m.A bed under the crabapple tree is filled with hosta’s, day lilies and Brown Eyed Susan’s.

I hope you enjoy this August Photo Diary of native plants and I hope that you too can bloom where you are planted!

Small House homesteader, Donna

Another Rainy and Cool Day on the Homestead

Two days of rainstorms broke the intense heat we have been experiencing here on the homestead overnight but the high humidity remains. After all, I keep reminding myself this is humid Michigan so what else do I expect!

Fencing three rows show studio modestly shows USE THISI placed the metal garden edging at the under the tree beds at the studio.

Today chores included emptying and moving the hose trough water container. We had it in the RIR chicks run for daily water but it is now in the way of the new outside coop ladder. So we emptied it of its water, put that water into  our two 275 gallon water storage totes and moved the trough to the vegetable garden. It will now be available for water my vegetables in pots that dry out quickly.

VET shot low Grass path silver horse trough

I spent some time this morning picking up sticks – that is one downside of having so many large White Oaks. I finally got around to putting up the decorative metal fencing panels my neighbor gave to me just before she moved into assisted living. DC has just been gone a week and already I miss her. She was our one friendly neighbor and through the years we helped to look after her especially after her husband died. I call her our angel because she was my “go to” person when I needed a plumber or contractor especially when we first moved here. She taught me how to deal with our county septic systems, for which I am eternally grateful.

Corn in bowl and bags on chopping block

Today chicken coop chores included more never-ending painting, moving the water trough and adding the second chicken ladder. These RIR chicks are going to be able to enter and exit their coop from the out-of-doors or from the inside through the covered run. This is a “thinking ahead” to winter kind of thing and gives them options in case the hens do not give up their mean occasional girl actions.

gen on lader drying out the wet sand

Hubby dealing with the coop flooding.

The other big job we tackled today that came as a very nasty surprise was emptying the new coop of the sand I just hauled in two days ago. Monday’s huge rainstorm soaked the sand clear through we haven’t yet figured out just how the water got into the coop. That was not a happy discovery and basically set us back to ground zero on getting the chicks permanently settled in the new coop. Not a pleasant discovery to say the least…

Yesterday I bought a dozen ears of fresh, local sweet corn to eat and freeze so that is on today agenda as well. The sweet corn was our lunch today and was delicious. The rest that we did not eat was cooked, shaved off the cob and frozen for winter meals.

Corn in bowl and bags on chopping block

The first sweet corn of the season.

Red daylilies and artesmia USE

Day lilies and wormwood in the meadow.

Back of pool shack long row of grasses USE

Garden lushness around the pool shack.

Enjoy the fleeting summer. August is just around the corner.

Small House homesteader, Donna

Fresh Picked Organic Strawberries on Lemon Pound Cake

Rows of berreis flowers in rightYesterday we picked 48 lbs. of organic strawberries. Then we came home and I made 5 batches of freezer jam while Gene cord, sliced and packaged up the rest of the strawberries for the freezer. It was a long and tiring but oh so satisfying day.

Daisy's foreground bearn rear arshareonedjpe g shUSE

I estimate that we have enough strawberries for eating and spreading on toast for more than a year and likely longer. Gene requested a homemade lemon pound cake with strawberries on top for Father’s Day and he definitely will be getting one from me! (Recipe below.) I’ll use our organic eggs and the farm’s strawberries…a marriage made in heaven.

Barn close sharpened jpeg use

A weathered old barn, quilt patterns and a John Deer tractor. How picturesque is that?

I feel that we are very blessed to have this wonderful organic fruit orchard, Pleasant Hill Farms located just 10 miles from us in Fennville, MI. They converted their operations to organic about 10 years ago and have been building a client base ever since.

HORZ John on left tent sharoende jpg USE

Their berries are U-Pick only. Consult their Facebook page for days and times to pick.

As always I feel very fortunate to live in the plentiful fruit belt of Michigan and have Pleasant Hill Farms so close by us.

Sign close up shraoenedj jpeg USE

A quilter, Joan uses favorite quilt patterns as designs throughout the farmstead.

Owned by Joan and John Donaldson, Pleasant Hill Farm is a small operation run by the Donaldson’s with the help of an occasional apprentice or two. They grow U-pick strawberries, blueberries and peaches, make maple syrup to sell cut wood and generally farm their land with the highest of ethics and care. I truly believe that food and it relationship to health is important to us all.

Yellow bowl red berries sharpened jpeg USE

Nothing like the rich red color of a fresh picked strawberry. Sweet!

They also sometimes farm with oxen which I find most fascinating. Their farm is pristine, well-managed and prolific. I am writing about them today because I respect their farming practices and hope that others will read about farmers and growers who are organic and realize that perhaps they to can make that formula work for them.

Cose daisy's nice sharpendjpe USE

A close up of the farm’s field of oxeye daisy’s.

Berries forground Barn in rear

Sitting in the strawberry field.

It was a long and tiring but oh so satisfying day.

Row of Oxeye Daisy's USE

Johns enjoying planting a entire field in oxeye daisy’s making a beautiful scene out of a field.

I estimate that we have enough strawberries for eating and spreading on toast for more than a year and maybe longer.Gene requested a homemade pound cake with strawberries on tip for Father’s Day and he definitely will be getting one from me!

I feel that we are very blessed to have this wonderful organic fruit orchard, Pleasant Hill Farms just 10 miles from us in Fennville, MI. They converted to organic farm practices in 1977 and have been building a client base ever since.

Berries close

Our day’s pick.

As always I feel very blessed to live in the fruit belt of Michigan and have Pleasant Hill Farms so close by us.

They are a small operation run by Joan and John Donaldson with the help of an occasional apprentice or two. The grow U-pick strawberries, blueberries and peaches, make maple syrup to sell cut wood and generally farm their land with the highest of ethics and care.

They also sometimes farm with oxen which I find most fascinating. Their farm is pristine, well managed and prolific.  I am writing about them today because I respect their practices and hope that other will read about farmers and growers who are organic and realize that perhaps they can be organic too.

I snuck away from our picking duties yesterday to take these photographs. It was a pleasure to enjoy their beautiful farm for a couple of house on a nice June morning.

Pleasant Hill Farm Collage 4 jpeg no text

Contact Joan and John Donaldson at Pleasant Hill Farm, 269-561-2850. www. Pleasanthillsblueberryfarm.com

Lemon Pound cake

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar, plus 1/3 cup
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice, plus 1/3 cup

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 6-cup loaf pan and line it with parchment or waxed paper. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt.

In a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment (or using a hand mixer), cream the butter. Add 1 cup of the sugar and mix. With the mixer running at low speed, add the eggs one at a time. Add the vanilla.

Working in alternating batches, and mixing after each addition, add the dry ingredients and 1/4 cup of the lemon juice to the butter mixture. Mix until just smooth.

Pour into the prepared pan and bake until raised in the center and a tester inserted into the center comes out dry and almost clean (a few crumbs are OK), 65 to 75 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the glaze: In a small bowl, stir together the remaining 1/3 cup sugar and the remaining 1/3 cup lemon juice until the sugar is dissolved.

When the cake is done, let cool in the pan 15 minutes (it will still be warm). Run a knife around the sides of the pan. Set a wire rack on a sheet pan with sides (to catch the glaze) and turn the cake out onto the rack. Peel off the waxed paper.

Using a turkey baster or pastry brush, spread glaze all over the top and sides of the cake and let soak in. Repeat until the entire glaze is used up, including any glaze that has dripped through onto the sheet pan. Let cool at room temperature or, wrapped in plastic wrap, in the refrigerator (Well wrapped, the cake will last up to a week). Serve at room temperature, in thin slices.

Recipe courtesy of Gale Gand.

Small House homesteader, Donna

 

Bark Chips, Field Stones and Lupines, Oh My!

Yesterday we had a family graduation in town. Our “adopted” nephew Mathew graduated from his Christian high school and we were celebrating.

Group house in rer USE

Native lupines shine at the Small House Homestead

While we were in the area, I picked up my two special ordered flats of native Lupines from Hidden  Savannah Nursery. One of my favorite nurseries, this place specialized in native plants. My favorite kind!

The ideal would have been to come right home and plant like a banshee because rain was predicted for the following day but I was just too tired. I’d been up working in the garden and with the chicken since 5 a.m. and then on the road by noon. But I was up and planting by first light today and planted about half of my new plants in the ground before the rain began.

Lupine really close USE

A close up show the pea like quality of our native lupines.

You may recall my earlier posting “In Love with Lupines” when I explained how I started planting native lupines n our property in 2009 after testing 40 plants that I bought from the same nursery through the Allegan County Extension plant sale.

Lupines in Saburu trunk USE

Lupine and tomatoes fill the truck of my Subaru this weekend.

Showy, elongated clusters of pea like flowers that tops the 1 to 2 ft. stems, this native perennial features blue, pea-like flowers in an upright, elongated terminal cluster on an erect stem. The blooming period is from late spring to early summer and last for about a month.

Foreground in focus rear blurred USE

Lovely lupines are definitely the star of the native plantings in our cottage -style garden.

Lupines grow best in sandy soil, in the full sun where the tall grasses and shrubs are minimal.  It is best to plant them while dormant in the spring or the fall.  I plant them with the buds 1” deep below the soils surface and space about 1 foot apart. I also like to plant in grouping of three for interest when in bloom.

trowel perfect USE

I recently extended the original bed filled with three White Pines, stones and lupines.

This plant was once thought to deplete the mineral content from the soil but actually the plant enhances the soil fertility by fixing atmospheric nitrogen into a useful form by and fixing it into the soil. They bloom blue or purple from April through July, depending on your geographic area and USDA zone.

Their growing conditions are sun, part sun, dry to moist sandy soil with an acidic pH of 6.8to 7.2. Very good drainage is needed but the plants are adaptable once established. It is considered a water-wise plant so planting Lupines offer beauty with water conservation efforts as well.

 

bed and pole barn USE

This is the view that greets our guests and family as they pull into our pole barn driveway.

This plant attacks butterflies and hummingbirds and is the larval host for the Karen Blue butterfly that is a protected species. This plant is also of special value to native bees. And bumble bees.

This is propagated from dry treated seeds in the spring. Does not transplant well due to its long, tap-root. The lupine is tricky to propagate as the seeds must be scarified, inoculated and then needs moist stratification for 10 days. Soil should be inoculated before sowing the seeds.

Lupines in flat looking down USE

I buy my lupines in cells from a native plant propagator.

This is a plant has very few if any pest problems associated with it.

I live on the edge of a sandy oak savannah forest parcel called The Allegan Forest and I happen to have the right soil conditions for this plant. Because of stabilized sand dunes and power line clearance in sandy area this is becoming a rare and uncommon plant in many places. Lupines and leaves in the landscapeField stones, bark chips and lupines…oh my!

I have a dream of a front yard overflowing with gorgeous masses of purple lupines. Each year I add a flat or two to my garden and many seeds blow, re-seed and pop up throughout our property much to my delight.

4 panels lupines jpeg 2015 BEST joeg

Everybody loves lupines!

Small House homesteader and gardener, Donna

Small House Vegetable Garden is Now In the Ground!

With the exception of the organic tomato plants I am picking up this Saturday afternoon, I finished planting the seeds in the vegetable garden today. This is a relief. I still have some Sunflower and Cleome seeds I want to plant but it’s always “food first” at the Small House homestead.

It’s June 5th already and I feel like I am behind the 8-ball. Luckily today was cool and cloudy and around 60 degrees and I was up and out working in the garden by 6 a.m.  After yesterday’s 80+ degree heat I wanted to get a very early start on my outdoor chores.  I’m fine with getting up and out early but not so fine planting in the heat of a hot afternoon.

Watering vegetable garden USE

Watering in the seeds in the hope they will germinate quickly.

Then the morning turned out to be fairly cool, a pleasant surprise. I had the sprinkler going all day as well watering the newly planted apple trees, the vegetable seeds and the arborvitae we planted last fall.

I also took advantage of this nice cool day and baked an organic Amish chicken, organic sweet potatoes and steamed fresh green beans.

Amish chicken

 

Sweep potaoes

We like to eat our main meal at noon.

Gene was feeling under the weather today but he was able to add a “T” and a short hose as a second watering option on our pool shack pump. The red hose is set up for our garden watering and with the shorter green hose I can turn the dial and get water for the animals without un-hooking the red hose. This will even allow me to be able to fill the animal water buckets while a sprinkler is running. It’s a small thing but will just make morning chores, and thereby, my life so much easier.

T on the pool pimp USE

We water our garden and the animals from the pool shack well.

I also finished weeding and spreading bark chips under the old apple tree that was here when we bought this place.You may recall that all but two of the old apple trees died in the flood. This is why we are replanting a few fruit trees each year.

Weeds are gone

Weeding and adding new bark chips as mulch has been a big chore this week.

After our late lunch was over and the dishes done I spent an hour of this blog. Then it was past 4 p.m. so I made myself a cup of ginger tea and grabbed a good book and sat on the three season’s porch to enjoy what was left of the afternoon.

For me this is one of the benefits of rising early (5 a.m.) my 8-9 hour workday is done by 4 p.m.!

Small House homesteader, Donna

My Favorite Carrot – Merida Hybrid

I love this carrot!

Carrots close use

It is Merida Hybrid an overwintering type I bought from Territorial Seed Company in 2014 http://www.territorialseed.com. It is certified organic too (by Stellar Certification Services.)

The most favorite thing about them is that they overwinter really well here in SW Michigan lasting through our intense cold months and deep, deep snow falls. I’ve harvested two batches so far this season; one earlier this spring and a second picking today. I planted our first garden seeds of 2015 today and the carrots needed to come out of the soil to make room for the new.

The package says “240 days, This Nantes type with great bolt resistance produces sweet, bright orange carrots 1 to 1 ½ “ in diameter. Well suited for spring, summer and fall plantings.” I agree.This sampler packet was just $3.95 from Territorial Seeds Company, Cottage Grove, Oregon 514-942-9547.

1 gram samplers work out really well for us and this one packet was enough to feed the two of us through the summer and fall and early into 2015.

There is nothing like harvesting fresh grown carrots from my garden in May and June before the real gardening season even begins!

The carrots pictures in this photograph above over-wintered in our garden and were harvested today 5/28/5. I cooked cleaned, sliced them up for lunch and they were as sweet as ever.

Small House Homesteader, Donna

 

Potato Planting Day at the Homestead

Today I planted our organic potatoes seeds.

Potatoes in ground USE

Organic seed potatoes going into the ground.

I had ordered a sampler set of seed potatoes from Wood Prairie Farm www.woodprairie.com this past February to test what variety does best in our soil and conditions. Then I’ll know exactly what to order next season.

This years garden layout USE

This seasons garden layout plan.

I have been sprouting them in the dark warm closet in our laundry room the past two weeks and they have finally sprouted. You can order toll-free at 1-800-829-9765. They also have a help line at (207) 429-9765.

Sas USEsy the garden helper

Sassy the garden helper.

Wood Prairie farms is a family owned farm in Maine that grows and sells USDA certified organic potatoes and cover crops and other roots crops as well. Everything they sell is organic and GMO free. I wrote about them last winter on my blog and that detailed piece can be seen here https://smallhousebigskyhomestead.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=1497&action=edit

While I was planting our potatoes Gene was putting up the stakes and strings that will be our trellis for our climbing beans and peas this season. He also sucked up leaves and put them down as mulch around our shallow raised bed to hold the weeds down.

Gene putting up string for trellis USE

Up goes the stakes and string that will hold the climbing beans.

I decided to try the “Experimenters Special” sampler box that holds four different kinds of potatoes; All Blue, Elba, Dark Red Norland and Yukon Gem to test to see what does the best here in our soil and our USDA Zone 5b growing conditions.

10 Tips for The Organic Potato Patch

  1. Faithfully rotate garden crops. Never plant potatoes after another nightshade like tomatoes.
  2. Treat your garden to generous amounts of organic matter; cover crops , leaves, straw.
  3. Potatoes love fertility; barnyard manure is wonderful when composted or fully aged.
  4. Promote plant health with regular sprays of liquid seaweed and liquid fish.
  5. Plant the best certified seed available.
  6. Warm seed for a day or two or greensprout prior to planting.
  7. Cut seed tubers into blocky pieces containing at least two eyes.
  8. Plant shallow for fast emergence;1” deep in the north and 4” deep in the south.
  9. Hill soil around plants, 2-3 times beginning when they are 4 to 6” inches high.
  10. Keep well watered
  11. Handpick and control insects.
  12. Harvest anytime you desire after tubers reach marble size.

Last seasons beets and carrots USEWhile digging I found some lovely beets and carrots from last years garden. They made a tasty side dish for lunch today.

More photographs to come when the leaves and stems come out of the ground!

Small House Homesteader, Donna