Memphis Backyard Farmer

Meet Hermione
May 28, 2014, 8:14 pm
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Hermione is the newest addition to our little backyard “farm”. She came to us via a friend and fellow urban agriculturist  who was having trouble with her vocalizing her opinion, so to speak. She was clucking so loudly, and so early, that it was waking both him and his neighbors. Since I’m the closest thing to a butcher most of my friends know, I usually get their problem animals. Such was the case with Hermione. But it turns out that she rather likes it here. She’s quiet unless the dogs spook her. She wanders the yard pecking and scratching and has laid a couple of eggs for us.

So – for now – she stays.



Spreading The Word
May 5, 2014, 9:16 pm
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This Year's Starts

If you’re connected to this blog, then like me, you probably like fresh, great-tasting food, gardening, nutrition, and the (natural) science of where your food comes from. Part of the reason I blog is to keep a running journal of what I’m doing, but also to let people know how easy it is to grow your own food, especially in a small space. We need to spread the word!

So in the spread-the-word department, a couple of things that might be of interest to you.

First, I’ve found that a great way to get people started gardening is to lower the barriers of entry. One of those barriers is knowing what kind of plants to buy, where to buy them, and how to get them cheaply. So many people just don’t know what to buy, and they’re intimidated by their lack of knowledge and the price of good plants at their local big box hardware store. To the rescue! This is now the third year I’ve had a plant giveaway at my church. Yesterday I gave away close to 80 tomato and pepper plants. I start the seedlings for myself each year, and honestly it’s so cheap and easy to do that there’s no reason not to produce a surplus. For each of the last three years I’ve added to the number of seedlings I’ve planted. I pick what I want for myself then take boxes of plants to church with a “Please Take Me Home” sign taped on. People are thrilled to get them, even folks who have never gardened before, and it opens up all kinds of opportunities for conversation. I get to tell them why I plant heirlooms, the organic methods I use, what kind of care their plants need at home, etc. If you’re handy with seed-saving or seed-planting, let me encourage you to plant for surplus, and give away as many as you can.

Second, over the weekend I received an unsolicited email with a link to a great infographic about micro-farming. I love infographics. It saves me from having to do any serious reading <grin>. But seriously, give it a look at, and share it with your friends. Oh – and do the reading. If you scroll below the (long) graphic, there’s some good background to the numbers and concepts.

Last of the Summer Bounty
November 13, 2013, 9:23 am
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Last Harvest of VegetablesIt’s a bit of a sad day here today. It’s the last harvest of the summer veggies. Although the last few days have been perfect, mid-60’s kind-of-days, tonight it’s going to plummet to 26 degrees. I went out today and cleaned the plants of tomatoes, peppers, okra, and the last few butternut squash. This is a full 11 days earlier than last year – in fact, the last couple of years I’ve been able to hold off until a day or two before Thanksgiving.

I ended up with a huge bowl of green tomatoes, which are hidden away in newspaper now, hopefully to ripen and extend our summer pleasure just a little while longer.

The rabbits are nestled in beds of hay, the plants are bowed to the ground, their wooden skeletons pulled. And I’m already dreaming of what I’ll start in the attic come February.

Maybe I HAVE Learned Something
June 8, 2013, 12:41 am
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ImageIf you garden very long, you know that each year is a learning experience. I’m not a terrific record keeper, but I do take note of what is working, what isn’t, and tweak for the next year. In fact, this blog is one way that I detail my progress.

It seems like this year I’ve been able to take my past mistakes and turn them into gold. The garden this week is beautiful. Blooms abound on tomatoes, potatoes, squash, cucumber, and peppers. The tomato plants are packed with fruit. The newly planted herbs are thriving in their new sunny spot by the mailbox. The garden is virtually weed-free.


Marketmore 76 Cucumbers

Of course, I can’t take all the credit – God has provided ample water (and more!). Bucket loads of rain have come down in long, soaking intervals every four or five days. My workload has really been easy.

I still have some big-time learning to do: the grapes didn’t get pruned this winter, and so they’re a mess. They’re currently full of new fruit, but much of it will rot unless I open it up to sunlight. The garlic is falling over because it’s simply so tall and heavy. I’m really not sure what to do – do you stake garlic?  I know it still has some growing to do, because I pulled a plant to inspect the bulb – almost there, but not quite. And the plants haven’t gone to flower yet, either.

Reach for the light

Potatoes, squash and pepers reach for the light

This weekend’s “to do” list:

  • Clean the rabbit cages
  • Use the rabbit poo to fertilize the herb garden
  • prune grapes
  • pull weeds from strawberry beds

What’s going on in your garden? What successes and/or failures are you experiencing this year?

BJ’s Favorite Spot
May 27, 2013, 11:10 pm
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ImageWhen I’m working in the yard, I like to let the rabbits roam. They chase each other, play games, munch on grass and flowers, and explore. I worked on beekeeping equipment all day Saturday, and so turned the rabbits loose for the day. BJ is a rabbit we had serious health problems with early on. Somehow he punctured his abdomen in his cage, and had an intestinal protrusion that we thought would be fatal. I honestly thought it was a digestive problem related to his feed. I was out of town when the event happened, and by photo and research, I thought BJ had become severely constipated and had blown out his rectum. This is known to happen in rabbits. I had the boys change his feed to hay only, had them isolate him in a separate cage, and keep me posted until I arrived back home. I honestly thought he’d soon be dead.

But by the time I arrived a couple of days later, BJ’s protrusion had shrunk to the point where I could see that it was coming from a small slit in his lower abdomen. To me, that pretty much sealed the deal; he was a goner. I was ready to put him out of his misery (because there’s no way I would pay to have this fixed with a vet, if it was even possible to do so). But because of the boys’ affection for BJ, they begged me to hold off. The piece of intestine appeared to shrink gradually, much like an umbilical cord does on an infant, until it eventually dropped off. Meanwhile, this skinny, scrawny rabbit fattened up until he is now one of the prettiest bunnies in the rabbitry. He’s quick, has a great demeanor, and a beautiful coat. Here he is, relaxing with me on the patio Saturday.

Who Knew That Being Negative Could Be Such a Good Thing?
May 18, 2013, 2:17 am
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I live in Tennessee, and I’ve been able to take advantage of some resources offered by my local extension office. I took the Master Gardener course a couple of years ago and it taught me an incredible amount about plants and gardening and soils and – too much to mention. But throughout the course and afterward, I’ve been less than satisfied with the research done and resources offered by the UT Extension regarding organic farming methods. Other states’ extension programs are doing great research in this area, including Cornell University and University of Vermont. UVM has some great resources for small farmers, including some terrific webinars. I’ve just finished watching “Basic Soil and Soil Testing” with Dr. Heather Darby for the second time and wanted to recommend it to those of you who are really serious about gardening and farming. You can find the webinar recording here.

Here are a few tidbits:

  • Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC) – Who knew that being negative was such a good thing?
  • The role of compost / organic matter in your soil (SPOILER: It’s not what you think!)
  • The importance of micro organisms in your soil
  • Different types of soil organic matter (SOM)
  • Where to spend your money for the quickest production boost: “Lime is your cheapest form of fertilizer. The pH of your soil will highly influence how available many of the nutrients in your soil are.” “You can change pH rather quickly and for not much money and will have the biggest impact on your crop production.

Pop some popcorn, send the kids outside, and set aside a block  of time to watch the webinar. It’s an hour and a half long, but well worth it!

Bees and Taters
April 13, 2013, 3:32 am
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Had a great afternoon working in the garden today. In preparation for planting my spring crop I harvested a boatload of turnip greens (with my first turnips). I let the plants go to flower because they’re really beautiful and have a fantastic fragrance. I picked some as a bouquet for the kitchen, let the bees enjoy some (the bees love them!), then fed the rest to the bunnies.


In addition, I did a walk through to see what was coming up, and it looks like my first potato is up, and the grapevines are covered in buds.


My seedlings are going in the ground next week, along with lots of pots full of plants. I’ll keep you posted.

How does your garden grow?