Friday, June 2, 2017

Breaking Ground at Sweet Summer Farm

     After we purchased the tractor, we decided to try out the plow. This is the first large bed we have attempted to plow. We marked out a 20x60  foot bed on the side of the farm and decided to get started. We backed up the tractor and started to hook up the plow. The plow is the most interesting thing to connect to the tractor. The bottom pins on the plow are on two different levels making it a little more difficult to connect. First, you back the tractor up to the plow and try to connect the lower pin. Then, you raise the three point hitch up until it is level with the higher pin and connect the other side. Then you connect the top pin to the top bar on the hitch. After we spent a while connecting the plow we were ready to start plowing. We hopped on the tractor and drove it over to the field. We were ready. We drove forward and dropped the plow in. To our amazement, it went right in and began to turn the dirt over. We were ecstatic that it worked. As we continued to plow, we started taking pictures. Some of our pictures are down below. While we were plowing, we noticed all the rocks that were coming up with the dirt. We had never seen that many rocks in one place. Well, I guess we have but only in every other place we ever tried to dig in the ground at our farm! After we finished plowing it was a little rough, so we decided to re-plow it. This did smooth it out, but it was still too rough to plant. After some thinking, we decided to see if we could use the rototiller to break up the soil for planting. We spent some time out there, working on tilling and after about 2 hours of tilling (the field is big, the tiller is small) we decided it was tilled enough for planting. We are very happy about this achievement and can't wait to fill this bed with delicious vegetables. We are also looking forward to using the plow to cultivate some more large beds.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Mother Earth News Fair 2017

Once again we visited the Mother Earth News Fair 2017 in Asheville, NC. We drove over to the fair early on Saturday morning. Grand fixed us breakfast sandwiches to take with us, so we stopped on the way to eat. Ater a couple of hours on the road we arrived at the fair, well almost. First, we had to make our way through all the traffic. Finally, we were looking out at many interesting exhibitors and shows. First, we went to the Expo building and visited Homestead Iron. We visited their booth at the last fair and bought some of their hand tools and have enjoyed using them. We stopped by their booth again this year and bought two more of their spades and a rake to dig up rocks. After that, we stopped by the Premier 1 fencing company to see about fencing for free ranging the chickens on the pasture. We also wondered if they offered a fencing that had a cover so that hawks couldn't swoop down and eat our chickens. The Premier salesperson said that they didn't offer that yet, but that they were working on it. We also talked to Premier about deer fencing to fence in our garden to keep the deer from eating our vegetables. We also looked at some different types of solar cookers. There were two types we liked. One of the cookers was made by Solavore and had a large tin box with one end open. It uses your current pots/pans and allows you to easily access the food inside. The other type we liked was made by All American Sun Ovens and has a black box with a plastic top that opens. Above that, there is a set of four tin sheets to reflect the sun into the box. It also had a thermometer included so you can know the temperature your food is cooking at. After we browsed around the fair for a little while, we found Twin Oaks Farm. They were selling goat milk products and natural bug repellent. While there, we met Karen White and Susan Smith. They were very nice and we found out that they breed Great Pyrenees dogs and Kinder Goats, both of which we are interested in. Kinder Goats are a mix between Pigmy Goats and Nubian Goats. They have the high butterfat milk of a Nubian with the size of a Pigmy. Later, we stopped by Bushy Mountain Bee Company. There we looked at some different types of bee hives. We looked at a "display hive" where you can see the bees inside the hive without disturbing them. We would love one of these to show poeple when they visit the farm. Next, we visited the animals. We saw some chickens and a team of oxen. The team was being trained at the fair and were starting to work as a team. We also got to see some large, heritage breed turkeys. We hope to add some of these to our farm in the future. We saw some rabbits at the fair and would also like to add them to our farm. The rabbits we saw are known as Angora Rabbits that have a lot of fur.We found out that they must be brushed once a week. We might get a rabbit with a little less hair.  We attended a number of presentations about everything from Sourdough Bread to Wildcrafted Cocktails.We also enjoyed going to Women in Agriculture and Taking care of Business. One presentation that we loved was on marketing and podcasts. There we met C S Wurzberger also known as the Green Up Girl. She was very nice and agreed to help us with marketing our farm to the public. She also agreed to help us launch a weekly podcast. We are happy to announce that podcasts will be coming soon! We have enjoyed going to the Mother Earth News Fair and we are already looking forward to next year!

Love their tools!


Summer wanted to bring this sweetie home 

Dawson and the Green Up Girl

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Grand's Ground Beef Stroganoff

     This is a recipe we cook often. It's a dish that's a very quick and simple supper when your running late or just don't know what to fix. It's a great recipe for any time of year.


2 lb of ground beef
2 large chopped onions
2 cups of chopped mushrooms
2 cups of whole milk or half and half
3 Tbs corn starch
2 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup of sour cream
1/4 to 1/2 cup of ketchup
1 tsp of garlic powder
1 tsp of salt
1/2 tsp of pepper


1. Brown Ground Beef and add onions and mushrooms, cook until tender.
2. Mix cornstarch, garlic powder, salt, and pepper Pour in milk stir until cornstarch is dissolved.
3. Add milk mixture to cooked beef, onions and mushrooms.
4. Bring to a boil and cook until milk mixture thickens, stirring to prevent sticking.
5. Add ketchup and stir into mixture 
6. Turn off heat and stir in sour cream.
7. Serve over noodles.

Hints from Grand

      We like this served over noodles but it is wonderful over rice, creamed potatoes or even toast. It is good with green peas on the side or you can add the peas to the meat mixture for a one dish meal. You can add the raw peas with the onions and the mushrooms and they will cook just fine in with everything else.  The pear salad is just home canned pears with a little mayonnaise and some grated cheese. It is a really quick side you just mix it all together and serve. If you are using store canned pears halves you just top each half with a small amount of mayo and sprinkle with cheese.  

Top Beef Stroganoff, Bottom Left Pear salad,
Bottom Right peas.

Monday, May 8, 2017

We got a Tractor!

      Life has really changed at Sweet Summer Farm. We bought a tractor! Ever since we bought our farm about 2 years ago we always thought how a tractor would help us. "A tractor would help us move this" or "A tractor would plow this" was something that was heard often on our farm. We always kept our eye out for a good deal. We looked at dealerships, E-Bay, Craig's List, etc. but never found the right deal. We looked for about a year and a half with no luck. Then, a break! our grandfather found an add in the paper from AgPro. The AgPro dealership was all the way in Gainsville (an hour away), so we loaded up the whole family to head south. When we arrived at the dealership, we were met by a very friendly salesman named Jeff Jenson. We looked at a couple of tractors, some larger, some smaller, and talked about what we would need for our small farm. We decided on one of John Deere's package deals. The deal we chose gave us a tractor, a trailer, a mower, a plow, plus a bucket on the front.  With this deal, we could get everything we needed for our farm. Once we found this deal, our grandfather decided to purchase it. We are really enjoying our new tractor. It has already made a big difference on the way we do things now at the farm. We are enlarging our vegetable beds over three times the size we had last year. We are now able to move lots of things with the bucket on the tractor that before were overwhelming. The mowing of the pasture is now a quick job we can do ourselves.We are looking forward to all the ways we are going to put this new tractor to work.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Finally taming the wild loofah.

    Early in the Spring of last year, we decided to once again try to grow loofahs. We have tried to grow them in the past but the season was just not long enough. This time we planted the seed in four-inch peat pots and started them under grow lights.They are easy to start from seed and we soon had a flat full of lush loofahs. Trying not to get too excited after all we had been at this point before, We installed four cow panels into an arch. The baby loofahs were soon nestled in close to the arch as soon as the weather was warm enough and all danger of frost had passed.  Well, the days passed, warm wonderful days filled with sunshine, warm rain fell on them, birds sang and the bees buzzed. The loofahs sat and sat and sat not one new leaf nothing. Were we to be disappointed once again?  All of a sudden the plants seemed to take off! We don't know if they over heard us discussing pulling them up and planting pole beans or if that is just the common loofah behavior.  However, they took off like crazy. If you watched you could almost see them growing. They were vining skyward at an unbelievable rate. Soon the loofahs reached the top of the arch but still, they climbed up and over them went passed the arch and were grabbing the tomato cages. We tried looping them back over the arch.  But loofahs are bold and wild there is no telling them where to grow. They were the rebellious teenagers of the garden not paying our good ideas about what was best for them any attention. Like having teenagers you just have to deal with them. Soon they were covered with bright yellow blooms and lots of bees. The bees loved the loofah blooms! Then we noticed tiny loofahs that grew and grew soon we had some very large loofahs. We were thrilled.!  We were able to get a large number of these wonderful gourds. We picked some green they make a softer sponge. Most we picked after they had started to change color from green to a darker brown.  Some we dried and will use in the shower. Others were cut into smaller pieces for dish washing. We also made gardeners soap out of some of them.  They have really come in handy. We look forward to growing more of them next year. 

Lots of loofahs

Lots of yellow loofah blooms
Wild tomato grabbing


Covering the arch
Dried loofahs

Loofa sponges. Peeled, seeds removed and washed.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The perfect picture painting for us

    This is a picture that was painted by Lynne Jaindl for Grand. Lynne is a wonderful artist from Macon Ga. It's a painting of a picture from the blog. We think the chicken wire behind the glass is a nice touch.  Summer Rose loves her polka dot boots and now they have been immortalized in art forever. We can't wait to get our old farmhouse remodeled and find just the right place for this adorable painting. Thank you, Lynne!!!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

A blast from the Summer Past

       This past summer we had a harvest of beautiful peppers. They are very easy to grow and don't take a lot of care. We put them in the ground and they took off growing. Peppers like a rich soil with lots of organic matter. They looked great growing in the garden. Pepper plants also make a nice addition to your flower beds. They blend nicely with brightly colored flowers. We did have to keep them watered late in the summer because the rain stopped for a while. We only added fertilizer one time in the spring. Most peppers start to produce in about seventy days, some a few days more some less. Once they get started making peppers, and they produced tons of peppers. We planted four kinds of peppers Corno Di Torro Rosso, Marconi Red, Small Purple Bell Peppers, and a Yellow Bell Pepper. We loved the bright colors of all of these wonderful peppers. We enjoyed them all summer long and into the fall. Grand also put jar after jar in the freezer. Some she chopped into small bits, some she sliced into strips and others she put up as whole peppers. There are many things you can make with peppers such as casseroles, soups and stews, tacos, pepper steak, and even stuffed peppers. But the recipe we are going to focus on today is Tacos!!!
                               Grand's Awesome Tacos
1. A pound of Ground Beef
2 A cup of chopped onion
3. A cup of chopped bell peppers
4. 1 14 ounce cans of tomato
5. 3 cans of different kinds of beans, your choice (garbanzo beans, black beans, great northern beans  whatever kind of beans you like )
6. About a cup of canned or frozen corn
7. 2 tsp of garlic powder
8. 2 tsp of cumin
9. 2 tsp of chili powder
10. salt and pepper to taste
Brown ground beef add onion and bell peppers cook till soft. Then stir in tomatoes, beans, and corn. Add garlic, cumin, chili powder, and salt and pepper. Cook over low heat about 10 min. or longer. The longer you let it simmer that better the flavors will blend. We have used this recipe for tacos, enchiladas, nachos and even topping for taco salad.  

                                                       Hints from Grand

 If you like you may use an envelope of taco mix. We like to use dried beans in this recipe. Grand cooks up a package of beans and then freezes them in jars. If you want more meat use two pounds of meat and cut back on beans. Taste this as you cook, some canned beans have more salt than others. We don't like hot foods but you can spice this up with jalapeno peppers or hot sauce. There are no rules here add whatever you like green onions or add some leftover rice or maybe throw in some summer squash.  
Our delicious taco delight
A close up of our peppers
Beautiful colorful peppers

Monday, January 2, 2017

Low tunnel fail

     We have had a major fail on the farm. This fall we decided to invest in a low tunnel hoop bender and then used the bender to bend electrical conduit into low tunnel hoops.We also ordered one of their frost covers. When we started forming the low tunnels using our new bender we were thrilled. The bender worked great and we plan on ordering different sizes. We mounted the bender to an old wooden shipping crate that we found in a shed. Making the hoops went really fast and they turned out perfect. We were hoping to use the hoops with the frost cover to extend the growing season at the farm. We used ten-foot electrical conduit to make hoops about four feet tall and used these to cover over our Brussel sprouts. We used five-foot conduit to make a tunnel about two and a half feet tall.

This size we used over our broccoli plants. The tunnels worked well and the plants did great under them. We wired our hoops to fence posts we had driven into the ground and we will try wooden boards next time. Then, we covered the hoops with our frost cover.

We then lined the sides with our many rocks to hold the frost cover in place. It all looked so good and we were very happy with our work. Then, Mother Nature showed out with rain and high winds. The next morning we found out that one of our frost covers had blown over. Well, blown might be and understatement, the cover over the Brussel sprouts had blown completely over, hoops and all, only the rocks had kept the frost cover from blowing into the next county. Our farm is in a valley between the mountains and the valley acts like a wind tunnel. The cover that blew over was facing sideways with the side taking the wind full force and was about 4' tall. We decided to take down this cover so that it didn't blow over again.
We hope the Brussel sprouts can take the cold. The frost cover that didn't blow over was facing into the wind and was only about 2' tall. We didn't stick the hoops to far in the ground because we knew we would take them up, but we thought we had them deep enough to resist the wind. We were obviously wrong.
We will keep you updated on how the uncovered Brussel sprouts do. We are going to use our hoops to grow earlier in the spring. We are going to work with mother nature and line up our tunnels differently next time. We have learned a lot.  If you use low tunnels please let us know how you anchor them to the ground. We ordered our bender from a company called Build My Own We were very happy with this company and will continue to order from them. They also sell greenhouse supplies. We hope we will soon be able to build a greenhouse.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Visit to the Farm Museum

  On Saturday we went to the old Appalachian Farm Museum. The Museum is made up of old farm buildings, that would have otherwise been torn down, and combined them into to one "farm". All of the buildings were saved from actual old farms in the surrounding area.

     The first  building is an old farmhouse that is similar to our house at Sweet Summer Farm.  It is called the Davis House. It was built by John E. Davis. He started building it in 1899. He had been farming in the area for about ten years. He spent about two years building his new home. He built this house for his family, his wife and his seven children. His last three children were born in that house.  Mr. Davis built his house out of logs even though  sawmill-lumber was readily available. Davis built his house using a technique called matched logs. It is where you take a log that is hewed flat on two sides, then split in half along its length to produce two building logs. They were then used in "matching" positions on opposite walls.

 An old smoke house is also on display. The smoke house was usually the closest building to the house not because of easy access, but just to be able to keep it safe from wild animals. Most families raised hogs. The hogs could have many large litters each year and could be turned out to forage in the near by woods. The meat could be preserved with salt and smoke and keep for long periods of time. This would help ensure the family's meat supply.

 The wood shed is a replica of the Davis shed.  They also  had an Ash Hopper. Ash Hoppers were used to store ashes from stoves and fireplaces  I bet most people have never seen one. Ashes were used to control some pests in the garden. But most important the ashes were used to produce lye so that they could make soap.
    They also had a corn crib, except theirs wasn't leaning to one side like ours. But we learned that the style of corn crib we have was a corn crib and gear shed combination. Corn was a very useful crop to grow. First of all, you could eat it cooked, you could dry it and grind it up to make cornmeal out of it, you can make it into hog, chicken, horse, any kind of animal food, and you could also trade it for other goods.

    They had an apple house that was used to store their apples in the winter. Apples were a great thing to grow in the mountains because the cooler climate in the mountains made for better growing conditions for the apples. Also, apples provided many different uses you can eat them, you could make them into apple cider, apple vinegar, apple sauce, apple butter, and of course apple pies. Also, apple slices could be dried to use later. Some would also use sulfur smoke to help preserve them. t
The sulfur smoke would get rid of any bacteria. Where the apple house originally was built into the side of a mountain which would keep the apples protected from hot summers and cold winters, and also because from the hill you could just walk right into the top floor! They stored the apples in the apple house until they took them to market.

      Then we saw some bee gums. Honey was a very useful thing to have on a farm. It is a great sweetener, It could replace sugar if you didn't have any. You could also trade or sell honey. Black Gum trees were most commonly used because they were usually hollow. They were called "bee gums" because of they had hinged lid and a wooden bottom. Which were storage containers called "gums" to store food and other goods. We hope to get bees at our farm next year, but I think we will go with traditional bee hives   

      There is also a beautiful old barn, a blacksmith shop, a springhouse, gardens with interesting fences, and of course a chicken coop.  We really enjoyed going through the displays inside and the gift shop. If you get the chance you should visit the Mountain Farm Museum. It is located just outside of Cherokee NC on the way to Gatlinburg TN                                                                                                                  
Appalachian Farmhouse

Big old barn

The ash hopper

The bee gums

The smoke house

The empty garden just some herbs on the edge next to the fence

An old chicken coop

 Apple house

An interesting fence design

 Old corn crib that is the same style as the one on our farm

The old blacksmith shop

 Old spring house