Buckwheat – Your Garden’s New Best Friend.

We try new things in our garden each year. This year we have been experimenting with using buckwheat as a cover crop. It’s super cool because it chokes out weeds, adds nitrogen back to the soil, is quick to bloom (so loved by pollinators), self seeding, and creates the perfect habitat for beneficial and pest insects — you can also harvest it and make your very own buckwheat flour. You might even get froggy and make some tasty buckwheat pancakes on a rainy Saturday morning which happens to be my Papa’s favorite.

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If you’re struggling with pesky insects like aphids or caterpillars, planting some buckwheat nearby or amongst your garden might be a life saver. Buckwheat attracts a number of beneficial insects like hover flies which feed on aphids. The female hover fly likes to lay her eggs close to an aphid infestation. After hatching, which only takes a few days, the larvae starts feeding on the aphids immediately. Now, it would be hard for us to know when this is all going down but say we did, we would be able to tell a difference in aphid population in just a few days. Resulting in happier and healthier plants.

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Staggering your planting in almost any crop is smart (in my opinion). Especially if you’re needing continuous flow and to stay out of the grocery store. I mean who wants 20 heads of lettuce ready for harvest all at once (unless you’re running a CSA or something like that)? And for that matter we want a continuous nectar source for our honey bees and for our hover flies. If we provide them with the optimum habitat then they will stay. Its a win-win, for them, us, and our garden. So I guess a win-win-win.

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When planning our apiary we decided buckwheat/wildflowers would be the perfect pair. At first we planted a 20’x50′ plot of buckwheat. A few weeks later, we sowed a 50’x 100′ plot. We also planted buckwheat around a lot of our trees, around our brambles, blueberry rows, and even around and in-between our potato rows. So far, although early, everything is looking good. It’s hard to give an accurate comparison from last year to this year with only having my memory to compare. I try to document things but lets face it… that’s really hard to do. Sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn’t. BUT, it’s really smart to keep a garden journal and if nothing else log a garden blueprint. So you know what was planted where and what worked and didn’t for the next planting.

And did I mention that it’s one of the more affordable seeds and that its non-gmo? Check with your local mill. We purchased a 50 lb bag for around $45. If you’re new to cover crops or haven’t given your soil a break in a while… try your hand at buckwheat. It’s an easy to grow crop that gives back to the soil, your harvest, and you.

 

I’m Not a Supermom

First off, Happy Father’s Day! I hope everyone made the father in their life feel loved and happy today. I personally think these “days” are kinda silly, because we should make our loved ones feel loved and special everyday. Although, its fun to acknowledge each person on special days like today. And it makes for a good reason to grill out if you didn’t have one already!

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As I’ve mentioned before, we have tried a lot of “diets” and at this point I totally despise that word. I catch myself seeing/reading it on social media and roll my eyes and keep scrolling. Guilty. I haven’t done a lot of research on diets, working out, and all of that. But I do know what works for us and we don’t do anything special. We simply try to eat a ton of vegetables, some fruit, probiotics daily, and limit animal protein. I think its simple.

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When we decided I was going to stay at home with our daughter and quit my job working at a pediatricians office. I was beyond stoked. I thought I was going to have it easy. Seriously, I couldn’t wait. I quickly realized how chaotic and stressful staying at home could and was going to be for me. It’s in my nature to get stressed out easily. With a baby (now two, a two year old and a 6 month old–all in 2.5 years), my husband is off working hard for us. For me. For me to stay at home. I really felt (especially in the beginning) that I needed to have the house clean: laundry up, dishes clean and put away, floors swept and mopped, and with a home cooked meal waiting on him. Because I was at home. THATS CRAZY!

I heard something a while back that really hit home with me. The laundry piles (clean or dirty) show that your kids are clothed, dirty dishes show that your kids are fed, toys in the floor aka landmines (as we like to call them) show that your child gets to play, all of these things show life. Life in your home. If you’re house isn’t clean SO WHAT. It’s not important. You have tomorrow. I can’t tell you how many nights after the kids were in bed that I sat on the couch and ran through my day in my head. Did I give enough attention? Did I praise her enough? Was I too harsh on her? Did I teach her anything? Did we read enough books? Was she happy today?

I remember as a child my mom would always ask me before bed, “What was your favorite part of the day?”. I’m sure I came up with some crazy answers but that is something I try to always ask my little girl before she goes to bed. And normally she responds, “Have fun today”. She may not have it yet but eventually. I’m not sure when my switch flipped but I soon started gauging my day as a good day by how much I made them laugh. Making my kids laugh show me that they’re happy. They’re having fun. And I don’t want her having to think and scrounge around trying to figure out what her favorite part of the day was. The house can wait. I’m not a super-mom regardless of how society makes you feel like you should be. I’ll be the first to admit I’m far from that.

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So, if you’re a parent struggling with any of these same issues. You’re doing amazing. Parenting isn’t easy, but it’s the most rewarding. Push work to the side to spend a little extra time with them and watch their eyes glow. They love us so much. Trust us. Want us and our attention. They seek our comfort. They want to be held by us not someone else, us. And they deserve everything that we have. They are our humans that we prayed for. Asked God for. Asked God to protect and to put his hand on.

With our busy life I seek simple meals. That at times take a little longer to make because I have two littles running around. But tonights meal was out of this world. I use a lot of Juli Bauer’s recipes mainly for their simplicity and I tend to have a lot of her ingredients on hand and not one has failed me! But tonight I made her Honey Mustard Chicken Skewers and they were so simple and nothing short of amazing. We paired them with a veggie melody that we harvested from our garden. Potatoes, patty pan squash, yellow straight neck squash, and onions. I marinated them in Allegro marinade (found at Wal-Mart or on Amazon) for about an hour. Grilled until tender.

So amazing and yet so simple and wholesome for our busy life.

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Pickle Me Beet

Beets. Omg. I have loved pickled beets since I was a wee little girl. The earthy taste along with the tanginess and how about that rich bold color?! Could easily be one of my favorite veggies.

I typically make my pickled beets to eat fresh. I never make enough to can. I just leave them in the fridge and eat as a snack or for dinner. They dont last long!

Before we harvested our beets from the garden I would go to Trader Joe’s and pick up a 1lb bag of organic beets for like $1.98. I don’t know if that’s a good price in comparison to buying in bulk but you can’t beat that for a healthy snack.

For me, 1lb will make 1 1/2 quarts. It’s so quick and easy.

 

Pickled Beets (refrigerator)

1lb organic beets

2 cups apple cider vinegar (you’re welcome to use white vinegar but the taste may be slightly different)

2 cups water

1 cup sugar

2 teaspoons salt

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》》Prepping your beets: If your beets come with the stems and leaves still intact then cut the stems about an inch or two above the root. NOTE: If you cut into your root prior to boiling, your beet will bleed out and you will lose the majority of your color.

Next wash thoroughly. And thoroughly again. You may even want to get a rag and scrub that dirt away. There’s nothing worse than a gritty beet.

》》Boiling your beets: Set your stovetop on high. Place your washed beets into a large pot completely submerged in water. Place them on your stovetop and boil until tender.

Once they’re tender, remove from heat and let cool. (I use tongs and move the beets to a cutting board to cool.)

》》Cutting your beets: First, you want to trim off the beet stems and peel your beets. They will be extremely hot so please allow time to cool.

It’s up to you how you’d like to cut them. Sliced or quartered.

Once they’re cut to your liking start dropping them into your mason jars. If you don’t have any you can buy them here or here.

》》Making your pickling solution: Over high heat, combine all ingredients and stir until the sugar has completely dissolved. NOTE: You can add more sugar if you’d like them a little sweeter. I prefer mine with a bite.

Once the sugar has dissolved use a funnel and ladle your mixture over the beets. Use an old mayo lid to twist onto the jars or a lid and ring that came with your mason jar sets and slide those puppies into the fridge.

》》They should be ready to enjoy in about 24 hours and gone within 48 😉

NOTE: If you have any brine leftover, you can store it in the fridge up to four-six weeks. I would heat it before using with your next batch.

 

My next post will be about utilizing your pickled beet brine to the fullest.

Here’s a hint: They are great on salads, sandwiches, wraps, pintos, hamburgers… Any ideas??

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It must be Summer…

Every summer I pick blackberries. And every summer I get chigger bites.. like crazy. I haven’t planted any because they grow wild here and are everywhere. So picking blackberries requires me to rummage through the woods with my little basket in 96 degree heat and basically offering myself as a free meal. So I itch all night and all day for a basket of berries. Now that’s homesteading dedication! A year ago I would have went to work and showed off my battle wounds and gotten a steroid cream. Now… I prefer to look for natural remedies to treat nature’s ailments.

I’ve read where you can make a baking soda paste (just out of baking soda and water) and apply it to the bites and it will help with the irritation. Well that sounded like a perfect test for my diy deodorant. It actually helped mine. I had to apply it several times throughout the day for days – because anyone who has had chigger bites know they last for a week or two and maybe even three. They are 100x worse than mosquito bites. Anyways my bites seemed to heal quicker than they normally would and my skin isn’t bleached out from steroid cream.

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I did make some blackberry jam today and I can’t wait to make a fresh loaf of bread tomorrow to accompany it! Ooo my husband is going to love me! 🙂

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We just got back from a week-long camping trip and are prepping for another. Our garden has really taken off since we left and we should be harvesting some veggies by next week! I’m super excited about this year’s garden. We planted spaghetti squash and I really haven’t seen a squash plant quite this big. They are huge!

So we have had a lot of volunteer beans where we planted “three sisters” last year. And I just so happen to have sunflowers come up around those beans giving them a natural trellis to climb! I told my husband that next year I’d like to plant a runner then a sunflower and repeat that all the way to the end of the row. Forget the stakes and the twine! I mean surely that’d work. If someone has done this or decides to do this I would love to know how it went for you!

Happy gardening!

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A birthday, Blowing Rock and a brooder box.

We went camping this weekend for my husband’s 30th birthday.

DSC_0751We stayed at Green Mountain RV Park in Lenoir and boy was it beautiful. We were tucked away amongst the beautiful Carolina evergreens and wrapped up in a blanket of fog almost all weekend. It was cold, wet and dreary. I wonder if that’s how Washington state is? Gosh, I’d love to visit that part of our country. 

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Anyways, we went to Blowing Rock on Saturday and an empty parking lot welcomed us. Understandably so due to the fog. We scored discounted rates because there was next to zero visibility but I wouldn’t have traded our intimate visit for the sunniest most toured day. We were able to take as many silly pictures as we wanted and take as much time to soak in what our God has blessed us with. Little O slept through the entire trip! We will be going back soon. With a $7/adult entry fee, a light (very light) walk and unforgettable view will not break the bank. If you plan on visiting the mountains of North Carolina I highly recommended making a stop at Blowing Rock.

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We are getting chick’s tonight!! I’m sooo excited!

We haven’t raised chick’s before so taking this on is a little intimidating. But hopefully all of our reading will guide us through a successful batch. We’ve had a cool spell here and honestly don’t know yet how young these little boogers are so we went ahead and got a heat lamp just to be safe. We also bought a feeder, chick feed, and a thermometer. All of that along with a $1 donation to the local 4-H Club ran us around $35 at Tractor Supply.

We need a box… duh! I asked an employee if they had any cardboard boxes in the back that they were going to throw away that I could have instead. He gladly unboxed a push mower just so I could have it. Brooder box… $0… check!

They need good carbon bedding. Something small enough that will allow them to scratch in but also absorbent. Daniel’s dad does wood work and just so happens to have a shop full of saw dust from untreated wood. Perfect! We will offer to get rid of that saw dust and have our chick’s bedding for $0.

They need grit in their gizzard to help them grind their food. After reading Joel Salatin’s Pastured Poultry Profit$” I learned creek sand is ideal for grit. It’s contains a wider range of natural minerals and is dressed with vegetable matter and bugs that makes it more appealing to the chick’s versus something off of a shelf. Grit… $0.

We are so fortunate to have good neighbors. Chick’s normally go anywhere from $5-$10 depending on breed. And our neighbor just hatched several Rhode Island Red chick’s. We are also getting these for free. Chickens are everywhere and I’m confident that in most situations a person would be happy to get rid of a few. It never hurts to ask! And if nothing else it may cost you a few bucks.

So $35 to get us started and a lot of that we won’t have to buy again. I’m so excited you’d think it was MY birthday! I can’t wait to share our new feathered friends with you!

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