Raised Grow Beds – My 2014 Garden

I’ve put a lot of work into combating weeds in my life, and nothing does that as well as a raised grow bed and plenty of Mulch! Since this is a brand new garden, in a brand new location, I really went all out on expenses, you could do this for MUCH less using free materials and your own soil. The total cost is still far less than the fruits/veggies would cost me in the grocery store, and for a much better product, so with that I’m happy.

The supplies I purchased were:

50 Bags of Garden Soil ($350)
120 Cinder Blocks ($165)
10 2x6x8 boards ($45)
40 Bales of pine straw ($120)
4 Rolls of Bio degradable paper weed block ($20)

The total project took one person most of a weekend to complete, and should render 1000+ LBS of healthy, all organic fruits and vegetables for less than $700. So while this isn’t the most cost effective way, it certainly will save your back weeding later, and is a good option if you have limited space and want to grow a lot of vegetables.

Take a look at these photos to see what I did this year, and then I’ll explain it.

Raised Grow Bed 1

During this stage I set up all the blocks (You’ll need them to hold down the weed block). There are 5 grow beds, each 10 blocks long and 3 blocks wide, and 2 feet apart from each other. That’s a total of around 250 SQFT of growing space. I recommend laying down two layers of the biodegradable weed block in each row, and then setting the blocks on the row as you move down to each next grow bed.Raised Grow Bed 2 Raised Grow Bed 3

I also used pine straw to help hold paper in place that wasn’t near any blocks. It’s important to allow for a good amount of over hang on the grow beds as you don’t want sneaky weeds working their way in from the outside either.

Raised Grow Bed 4

This is a picture of all the beds built, the next step was filling the outsides with pine straw after creating a wooden border that was about 6 inches tall.

Raised Grow Bed 5

This is a picture of the beds completed, and the pine straw in place. It’s about 6 inches deep which is enough to smother out any would-be invaders.

Raised Grow Bed 6Raised Grow Bed 7

At this stage I put the bags of soil in, cut them open and smoothed out the dirt. Each box took about 10 bags to fill up, with a good amount of  excess included for settling.
Raised Grow Bed 8

Here I made some stringers for my peas and cucumbers.


Raised Grow Bed 9

Here’s the final product.

The vegetables I’m planting this year can be seen in my article: My Garden 2014.

 

 

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My Garden 2014

Here’s a look at what I’ll be planting this year:

NAME SKU DESCRIPTION QTY PRICE/ITEM TOTAL ITEM
Radish, Cherry Belle Organic All-America Selections winner. Certified Organic. 1 $4.95 $4.95
Bean, Bush, Provider Organic Easy to pick and easy to grow. 1 $4.95 $4.95
Beet, Detroit Dark Red Organic Dark red, extremely sweet flesh. Certified Organic. 1 $5.95 $5.95
Corn, Golden Bantam Organic This is the variety made yellow sweet corn popular. 1 $5.95 $5.95
Pepper, Sweet California Wonder Organic HEIRLOOM. The standard bell pepper. 1 $5.95 $5.95
Sunflower, Mammoth Organic Enormous organic sunflower. 1 $4.95 $4.95
Garlic, Asian Tempest Broadleaf variety form South Korea with sweet flavor when baked. 1 $10.95 $10.95
Brussels Sprouts, Octia Outstanding flavor and easy to harvest. 1 $4.95 $4.95
Tomato, Chadwick Cherry Organic Sweet 1″ fruits bear continuously. 1 $4.95 $4.95
Sweet Potato, Bush Porto Rico Copper-colored skin; moist, reddish orange flesh with delicious flavor. 1 $13.95 $13.95
Potato, Russet Norkotah The perfect potato for small gardens. 1 $19.95 $19.95
Oregano, Organic Italian seasoning favorite. 1 $4.95 $4.95
Fig, Black Mission Sweet, pear-shaped fruits with delectable red flesh. 1 $12.95 $12.95
Marionberry Big harvests of tart, sweet berries. 1 $11.95 $11.95
Goji Berry, Sweet Lifeberry PPAF Snack on fresh Goji berries, or enjoy dried, or mixed into pastries, smoothies and dipping sauces. 1 $15.95 $15.95
Marigold, Happy Days Mix Masses of 2″ flowers bloom early and profusely until frost. 1 $4.95 $4.95
Poppy California, Sunset Mixed Colors Bright mix of red, cream, orange, gold and pink. 1 $4.95 $4.95
Gomphrena, Strawberry Fields Extraordinary colored strawberry red Globe Amaranth. 1 $3.95 $3.95
Salad Greens, Dandelion Flavorful dandelion from Italy adds a distinctive note to salads. 1 $3.95 $3.95

In addition to this I picked up some Lettuce seeds, Carrot seeds, and Cabbage seeds from lowes. I’ll grow around 1000 LBS of food with the above order in my new raised grow beds, which I’ll be writing a separate article about now. Here it is, check out my raised grow beds tutorial!

 

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Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead Juice Diet Recipes

Hello everyone!

It’s been a very long time since I wrote on my blog. Sorry about that!

Alot of things have changed in my life – some good some bad, but the big news is I’m back. I’m going to start blogging a lot more.

In my last post I talked about starting the Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead Juice Diet, I went about 2 weeks and lost about 15 lbs. It was a great program for me. You can read that post here: Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead Juice Diet.

After checking in to my blog I noticed a lot of questions! Everyone was super curious about the dos and don’ts of the diet as well as some recipes that I used.

Here’s a list of recipes I found useful:

This recipe is really the staple and it’s called mean green

5 Kale Leaves
1 Cucumber
3 Celery Stalks
2 Green Apples
1/2 Lemon
1 piece of ginger

This recipe is good for iron because it has a lot of spinich

handful spinach
3 pieces of kale
2 apples
1 handful parsley
1/2 lemon
1 cucumber

This is one of my favorites, it has pear which makes the taste a little sweeter

1 pear
1 apple
1 handful spinach
1 handful parsley
1/2 cucumber

Thanks more to come soon!
Keep your questions coming I’ll do my best to answer them!

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Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead Juicing Diet

I decided to try the juicing diet from the Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead film. (Learn More)

The idea from the film is that over the course of our lives we eat so much unhealthy stuff, junk food, poisons, pesticides, etc. that our bodies are actually damaged. So the star of the film goes on a quest to eat only organically grown vegetable and fruit juice concoctions to cleanse his system and lose the weight that he had gained over the years.

You should consult a doctor of physician before trying this or any diet.

For this diet I used the same juicer in the film, the Breville BJE510XL Ikon 900-Watt Variable-Speed Juice Extractor. At the time of writing this intro I’ve only used it a few times but it works perfectly. It also shreds and separates the pulp into a separate bin which I take outside to feed to my chickens, or put in my worm bins, providing both with healthy, organic produce. (Read more about growing your own organic chicken feed and how to use composting worm bins)

I started the diet today, July 31st, with the intent on stopping August 14th. Giving me a two week cleanse and to see how much weight I can shed. A few sample drinks I’ll be drinking:

Juiced:
1 Juice:

1/2 bunch of kale
1/4 lemon
thumb-nail sized ginger piece
1/2 cucumber
1 apple

1 Juice:
4 Celery pieces
2 Tomatoes
4 Peppers
1 Cucumber
1 handful of parsley

1 Juice:
2 Kiwi (skinned)
10 Strawberries
15 Rasberries
1/2 Mango
2 Apples

1 Juice:
2 Apples
1/3 Pineapple
1 Kiwi
1 Lemon

At the time of posting this it’s the evening of the 3rd day (August 2nd). I’ve lost about 10 LBS, feel very good, and my chickens and compost pile are LOVING the extras. I’ll post a follow-up at the completion of the diet!

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Wild Chamomile: Finding, Identifying, and Using

I recently stumbled upon an awesome, free, easy-to-find, healthy herb growing all over western Montana practically right under my feet!  Wild Chamomile (pronounced kam-ə-meel), also known as Pineapple Weed, is an annual herb that easily grows along fence lines, roadsides, and in sunny fields from Southern Canada to Northern U.S. to west Minnesota.  Chamomile’s branched stems grow somewhat erect, round, hollow, and up to 20 inches tall.  The leaves are finely divided and feathery.  The flowers are daisy-like, only without the petals you’d find on other varieties of Chamomile (German & Yellow Chamomile).

Typically, Chamomile is served as a tea.  I gather and use all the above-ground parts of the plant (or just the flowers) to make tea.  Once picked, I rinse all the dirt off, then pour boiling water directly onto the plant to make my tea or dry it, then put the dried flowers/leaves into a press pot or tea bag to steep.  I find that tea is always better with a bit of honey.

Another great way to ingest Chamomile is to add the flowers to a salad.

Now, here’s my favorite part… benefits to drinking or eating Chamomile!

Internal Uses:

  • Mild Sedative
  • Calms stomach spasms caused by gastritis and colitis
  • Helps rid-of or prevent diarrhea and other intestinal related issues
  • Helps with liver problems
  • Encourages sweating, which helps with lowering a fever
  • Relieves headache pain
  • Can be beneficial for babies with colic
  • Calms or prevents menstruation pains

External Uses:

  • Calms red and inflamed skin
  • Liquid feed and plant tonic effective against plant diseases
  • You can add Chamomile to your shampoo and/or conditioner.  It helps add a silky look to your hair while strengthening your roots.
  • Dried flowers can be used as an insect repellent
  • Stuffy nose: breathe in the steam from boiling Chamomile in water to clear out your sinus system.

Here’s a little gardener tip I learned recently: it is said that if you transplant Wild Chamomile into your garden it will help sickly plants!

Be sure to check out our video on identifying Wild Chamomile below and good luck on your own Chamomile hunt!

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How to Make Mozzarela Cheese From Goat Milk

Making your own cheese is a wonderfully rewarding experience! Not only do you know exactly what is going into your cheese and are saving money in the process, but you are creating an awesome, educational experience you share with family and friends!

Now, the first step to successful cheese making is to have the proper equipment on hand. For making your own quick and easy goat mozzarella, here’s what you’ll need:

1. A heavy stainless steel or enamel pot. A non-reactive pot is important, because acidifying milk can dissolve aluminum.
2. Curd knife.
3. Measuring cups.
4. Measuring spoons.
5. An accurate thermometer which reads 32-225 F (0-100 C) is very important. A candy or meat thermometer will work. The reason an accurate thermometer is so very important for cheese making is because the texture of your cheese relies on getting the called-for temperatures.
6. Either a good whisk or something that will help you to thoroughly stir in rennet.
7. A colander or cheesecloth.

Ingredients:

2 gallons of milk
2 1/2 teaspoons citric acid powder
1/2 teaspoon liquid rennet or 1/4 rennet tablet
1 cup cool water, divided in half
1 teaspoon cheese salt (optional)
(To convert this to a 1 gallon recipe, go ahead and just put in half of everything listed.)

In your stainless or enamel pot add the cool milk. Dissolve the citric acid powder in 1/2 cup of water and add, then add to milk. Stir well. Bring the temperature of the milk to 88 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix the rennet with the other 1/2 cup of cool water and stir into the milk.

Allow the mixture to set at 88 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes to coagulate. After setting for 15 minutes, the curd should be firm to the touch. Cut into about 1 inch squares with your curd knife. Let rest for 10 minutes.

Then place the pot of curds into a sink of very hot water and slowly bring the temperature up to 108 degrees Fahrenheit. Curds will shrink during this process. Keep the curds at 108 degrees for 35 minutes. Drain the curds for 15 minutes either in your colander or cheesecloth (you can add your 1 teaspoon of salt at this point, mixing it into the cheese with your hands). If using a cheesecloth, you’ll have to tie it with something to a deep bowl or pot (something clean to catch the whey that will drip out of your mozzarella).

I recommend saving the whey to make ricotta with or heat treating your curds if you use the stove top method rather than the microwave method. When the curds have drained, they are ready to be heat treated to get their stretch.

Microwave Mozzarella Method:

Seperate your curds into about two equal part and put half in a microwave safe plate or bowl. Heat on high for 50-60 seconds.

Take out and work the cheese with either your hands or the back of a spoon. This process is a lot like kneading dough. Place the cheese back into the microwave safe dish and heat on high again for 25 seconds.

Remove from microwave and work the cheese again, stretching and shaping it. Work into a soft ball shape with the hands and allow to cool. Cheese will become opaque and shiny.

Wrap in plastic wrap or freeze for later use. Cheese will keep for about 2 weeks in the refrigerator. I love using this cheese on pizza, lasagna, omelets, and many other things! Bon appetit!

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Humility

Thoughts on Humility

The dictionary definition of humility is:

Humility (adjectival formhumble) is the quality of being modest, reverential, even politely submissive, and never being arrogant, contemptuous, rude or even self-abasing.

The thought of being humble came to me one night while I was deep in thought. I looked at the frustrations, problems, and short-comings in my life, and realized people I had seen who had mastered those problems all shared something in common; they were humble, intelligent, thought before they spoke, and cared about others. There is really something to it, and it’s something that I try to practice, although difficult, as often as possible.

In today’s society we are taught to boast about and highlight our good qualities, achievements, and feats. A life of humility demands swallowing your pride, and a level of maturity and life realization that few are able to achieve. It takes a lot of work, and is something to struggle with every day.

Humility as part of a simple life

Humility is a basic requirement of a simple life. You won’t have the flashy car, the big house, or the brand-new clothes to show off at your weekend house party. Realizing what’s really important in life will help counter the initial feelings most people feel when trying to live humbly and simply. This means an intense focus on family, friends, togetherness, religion if it suits you, crafting, gardening, and living close to the earth.

It’s really a mindset that most people raised in today’s world do not posses. People see more as better, and newer as more desirable, and unfortunately these things can trap us into high mortgages, credit card debt, and jobs that make us unhappy. Being humble will allow for less focus on material things, or self boasting, and more focus on relationships in your life and living simply.

Practicing Humility

Here are a few techniques used to practice being a more humble and well-rounded person.

  • Listen to what people are saying when they’re speaking to you. Take a moment before you respond.
  • Say what you really mean. Avoid being cynical or sarcastic. Be honest and direct to express what you want to say.
  • Think before you act or speak – fools rush in!
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Making Plant Containers

One of the most important things about living simply is being able to take items, that have served a purpose or function, and being able to re-use that item instead of having to buy something brand new. This will save money, and normally the environment, and give you a great sense of accomplishment and self worth.

These plastic containers are old recycled water bottles, so technically if I can find a use for them they’ll be 3x recycled products!

Today we’re looking at recycling some old plastic apple containers into viable plant starting containers! The containers are the remnants of the plastic case that the apples used in my drying apples article came in, and I wanted to be able to do something else with them. These plastic containers are old recycled water bottles, so technically if I can find a use for them they’ll be 3x recycled products!

The shape of the plastic is like the old egg cases, basically the plastic surrounds the apples and has a little fastener in the front to keep them from spilling out, see:

Apples stored in a plastic case from the store

By cutting the packaging down the center, and placing the top on the bottom I was able to make a new planting dish, capable of holding 12 plants.

Follow these steps to create the same thing:

  • Cut the apple container down the center.
  • Place the lid and the bottom face UP, one on top of the other.
  • Drill or poke small holes into the base of each divot, where the apple would normally rest.
  • Place a small amount of soil and a seed, or use soil tablets, at the base of each divot, then water lightly.

It’s important to have holes in the base of each divot where the apple would have rested. This allows water to drip into the bottom and not soak the plant. The plastic from the apple container is very durable and should last for several seed starts. This should be your final result:

Learn how to re-use other items on our Re-using Items In The Home Page!

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Mangel Beets

In my What I’m Planting in 2011 post I mentioned the Mangel beet. I wanted to give everyone more information on this wonderful plant, including a little history, and planting information.

Mangel Beets are a member of the Beta Vulgaris family, and a French heirloom from the 1800′s. They have a milder, more subtle flavor than their cousin, the red beet. They’re a sweet yellow-fleshed root that can reach up to 10 lbs. before becoming ”woody”. They grow large green leaves that can be steamed and eaten at any time while the plant grows. Mangels are easy to grow and keep very well.

Propagation:

When the soil begins to thaw, sow 1 seed per inch in rows 12 inches apart. Continue to plant new seeds every 2-4 weeks for a continued supply. The seedbed should be kept moist during this time.

Soil and Water:

Mangels prefer neutral soils. Work compost into the first few inches and water moderately through harvest time.

Harvesting:

You can harvest the green leaves at the top anytime to feed to your chickens or to steam for your dinner table. The flavor will be the best when the root is small to medium sized. Store harvested beets in cool areas, and pack in moist sand to extend storage time.

Purchasing:

You can buy Mangel Beet seeds directly off Amazon at: Organic Yellow Intermediate Mangel Beet – 50 Seeds if you’d like to try them in your garden!

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What I’m Planting In My Garden – 2011

Proper planning and research early on will determine the success of your garden, and ultimately how much food you can grow, and money you can make, off your crop.

I wanted to give you an idea of what I’m planting, and the reason I’m planting the things I’m planting. Keep in mind I’m a hobby farmer for now, and everything I do is by hand, organic, and done in my spare time. If you were to dedicate more time to this you could easily grow more, make more, and profit more!

My 2011 Grow List

  • Snap Peas: Peas are a great crop that fix nitrogen into the soil. I’ll grow them in and around my corn rows, and anything I get from them will be an extra treat! These are also a great chicken feed addition. (See: Growing your own chicken feed) I’ll grow probably 30-50 plants worth.
  • Dill: Dill is a great herb that can be added to many dishes, it’s easy to grow and attracts lots of beneficial insects! I’ll plant this near my tomatoes as some of the insects it attracts love to go after Hornworms and other nasties! I’ll grow around 30-50 plants worth.
  • Sunflowers: Sunflowers grow very well with lots of sunlight and water, provide pounds worth of delicious sunflower seeds per flower, and can have their stocks ground up and recycled in my compost pile! The amount of food you get from sunflowers compared to the work to grow them is amazing – they also make a great additive for chicken feed! I’ll grow around 30 plants worth.
  • Basil: Basil is grown in some of my raised growbeds and requires very little upkeep. During the spring and summer I go out to the garden, snap off a few leaves for salads, sandwiches, and Italian dishes I’m making, and the plant is never the wiser! At the end of the season I harvest all the leaves, clean them, dry them, and then grind them into a Basil sprinkle powder I can use for the rest of the year! These leaves also sell very well at farmers markets! I’ll grow around 15 plants worth.
  • Corn: Corn is one of the most valuable crops you can grow. It’s used in all kinds of fashions including feed for your animals, fresh, or ground and put into a plethora of other recipes. Corn grows very well, is easy to plant and requires very little upkeep. It’s a good idea to spread corn out well and make it part of a crop rotation plan. I like to grow peas under mine to keep the soil moist and keep as many nutrients in the ground as possible. I also throw the remaining corn husks and stalks in a wood chipper that sprays into my compost pile each fall. Corn is absolutely worth growing if you keep some animals on your land as just about anything can fatten up nicely off it. I’ll grow around 125 plants worth. (Read more about how to grow corn)
  • Watermelon: Watermelon is a fun and exciting plant. It’s one of the tastiest things you can grow, has fruit that stores well, and fetches amazing prices at the market place. Watermelon plants need lots of water and a reasonable amount of care. I will grow 5 plants worth.
  • Cherry Tomatoes/Regular Tomatoes: Tomatoes are a wonderful thing to plant. For each plant you normally get way more than you can use, so be sure to can/dry/preserve the leftovers. With proper storage you can keep yourself and family in tomatoes year round off a good season. It’s a good idea to grow a few different types of tomatoes too, to keep your taste buds tantalized! This year I’ll be growing around 20 plants, 10 of each type.
  • Jalapeno: Jalapeno plants are fun to grow, but require some upkeep. I grow them because I love spices and love adding them to various dishes. They can also be dried, crushed, and saved very well. I’ll grow 10 plants worth.
  • Sweet Peppers: Sweet Peppers, much the same as Jalapenos, require a little monitoring and upkeep, and I haven’t had much luck with them in the past in my area, but I’m going to try them this year and see how it goes! I’ll grow around 20 plants worth.
  • Pickling Cucumbers: Cucumbers have the incredible benefit of being delicious after being pickled! They are also a great food for chickens, fish, and even horses. They’re easy to grow but need to crawl, and need a good amount of space. I’ll grow around 20 plants worth.
  • Onions: Onions are incredibly versatile, and can be chopped and dried to save for ages. They also do very well in root cellars and can last for months! They require little to no upkeep, a reasonable amount of water, and taste amazing fresh. I eat a lot of onions so I’ll probably grow around 40-50 this year.
  • Mangel: This is something new I’m trying this year. Mangel is a form of beet and I heard it performs admirably in feeding chickens and livestock. It’s chalk full of calories and important vitamins, and easy to grow. I’m going to grow around 20-30 worth. (More information on Mangels)
  • Broccoli: Broccoli is one of the best things you can eat, and is very easy to grow. It needs lots of sunlight and water, and you’ve got to make sure that the grasshoppers don’t spend too much time on it, but I always grow lots of Broccoli for it’s nutritional and cancer-fighting qualities. I will grow around 20 plants worth.
  • Tobacco: I love growing my own Tobacco for use in Cigars and pipes. It’s easy to grow, creates a beautiful flower/plant during the spring and summer, and is easy to harvest. I’ll grow around 30 plants worth.

In addition to the garden I also have a small orchard with plums, peaches, pears, apples, and cherries. All my seeds are organically grown, purchased from trusted retailers, or are my own from the best plants the year before!

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