I’ve got sweet potatoes on the brain since I’m just fixing to plant them. I’ll continue planting them for another month or so as they are such heat lovers they’ll thrive all summer long, with supplemental water, and they have numerous benefits.
The biggest benefit, besides doing well in the heat, is that they are vigorous enough to out-compete the many grasses that try (and too often succeed) to take over the summer garden. Additional benefits are that the leaves are edible and delicious, few pests bother them too much, and all the critters love the surplus. Plus, they are so easy to grow you can start them right in your kitchen and have dozens of plants from just one potato.
There are several methods for growing the ‘slips’ which you then plant in the garden. It seems the most popular way is to suspend your potato in a jar of water then snap each new vine off when there’s about 4 or 5 leaf sets, then plant it.
I prefer another method because when those vines get taller they don’t do so well with the wind when you first put them in the ground and they dry out faster. I lay them first flat in a tray and cover them most of the way with loose soil. Once they get 2 or 3 leaf sets I snap those off and put them in water for a week or so to grow roots. The short vine with many roots transplants much better in our climate than the long vine with no roots.*
Not exactly attractive, but very tasty! Some of our favorite ways to enjoy them are as a crust for quiche, in a roasted veggie medley tossed with plenty of olive oil or pork fat, and mashed with turnips and butter.
I prefer to tone down their sweetness rather than accentuate it, but lots of folks prefer the opposite, like the popular Thanksgiving dish topped with marshmallows or baked in a pie. They also do very well as a thickener for soups and sauces. To further tone down the sweetness you can avoid the curing process and move them straight indoors to overwinter.
For more growing tips and cooking ideas, here’s a good site:
* Another tip for Southern gardeners is to grow your own slips rather than order them. I wanted to try some different varieties I saw in the catalogues and tried for several years to get a good crop and they failed every time. The vines went crazy, but no tubers grew at all. I tried to discover why this was, but never could find an answer. My only guess is that coming from a more northern climate disrupted their growth somehow? Not only that, but they are obscenely expensive considering how easy they are to grow! I was not at all pleased to waste so much time, space and money for those failures. But, lesson learned and now I waste no money on them at all!
Huge days on the wee homestead! The pigs and sheep have all had successful births without a single hitch. Mama Chop did lose a couple, but she has such large litters that’s not such a bad thing. We were very concerned about her as she crushed her last two litters, literally, not in the new way of the term—She crushed it! Nope, in the old way, as in she smooshed them all.
Hubby was able to prevent that sad ending this time by clearing out her corral space of every last twig. She was in the habit of building huge nests, full of branches and twigs and so steep the piglets would roll right off it, falling between branches and getting pinned whenever she moved around. We were worried with another total loss we’d have to get rid of her because we like her so much, she’s so gentle and good-natured. She loves company and will even go on walks with us. It is truly amazing how graceful these huge creatures are around those tiny, squirmy little things!
Virginia had a similar setup to Momma Chop, but she wanted nothing of it. She went off into the woods to build her own nest, her way. Luckily she doesn’t have such a penchant for branches and twigs. She’s got more of the wild side in her attitude as well as her nesting preferences. And she certainly does not appreciate prying eyes and will come after anyone who gets too close to her brood!
Watching the little lambs play, and sleep, is so cute. But I expect when the kids come next month we’ll really be in for a comic treat! It will be our first experience with goat births and I hope it goes as smoothly as the sheep did this time.
We have a new visitor to the garden which surprised us.
It’s been there every day now for about a week and I’ve never seen one like it around here before. It flies just like a hummingbird and had us quite confused. It was darting all around so fast and so far that it took me about 10 minutes and 30 attempts to get one decent shot of it. After some searching we learned it is some kind of hawk moth. Fastest moth in the west? Sometimes I undervalue the usefulness of the Internet, I might’ve been left baffled on that simple identification for a lifetime!
Not to mention the joy of sharing these simple pleasures with y’all!
It’s been unseasonably warm for us so far, with regular episodes of more mild weather whiplash than in recent past years. I suspect that’s about to change, so here’s the garden as it’s growing now.
It’s a first for fresh tomatoes in December around here! We are still harvesting from the ‘volunteer’ tomato jungle growing in the duck coop. It looks so pretty and is producing much more than we can munch. Even though it’s tedious work, I dry them. They come out delicious that way and can be added to all sorts of dishes or made into a pesto.
With the peppers still growing strong that means in 20/20 hindsight I should not have moved a couple of them last month to winter them indoors after all. Where’s my crystal ball when I need it most?!
The mushrooms continue to marvel me! First we had chanterelles nearly all summer, now we have delicious ’wood blewits’ (clitocybe nuda—ok that sounds a bit pornographic, no?!) and tabescens, and lactarius paradoxus. Also pictured are either the hallucinogenic ’laughing Jims’ (Gymnopilus spectabilis) or the highly toxic ’Jack-o-lanterns’ (Omphalotus olearius). The latter I give to a friend who uses them to dye yarn. The former, if I were 100% sure of my identification, I might be inclined to try! Apparently you can tell from the spore print color, either orange or white. But, what about when it comes out whitish-orange? Too risky for me!
The cooler temperatures make even our old dogs feel a little frisky!
No rest for the weary around here! Our goal of year-round garden harvesting has been met and is every bit as rewarding, and exhausting, as I expected.
Living, working and eating according to the season is remarkably satisfying. In the last couple of years especially I’ve spent much less time learning from books and much more on direct observing and experimenting.
I’m thinking our next goal should be to throw the calendar and the clock out with the garbage. Show those Amish what a real Luddite looks like! HA! 🙂
This time of year the spiders tell me it’s a good thing I’ve got the cool season crops out already. Many of them were started indoors, then transferred outside under shade cloth which will remain until the heat breaks, fingers crossed we don’t get an early frost.
I’ve just started harvesting the sweet potatoes, the luffa and peppers are going crazy, the radishes, volunteer cherry tomatoes and lettuces are finally happy again and I’m most excited for the mirliton squash (chayote) that is finally getting its first flowers. This will (hopefully) be our first success with mirlitons following multiple failed attempts. I love this squash, but it thrives in southern Louisiana mostly, because it needs a very long warm season, even longer than we get here. I started these indoors in February, along with the turmeric, also a first for us this year.
As soon as it cools down I’ll also be harvesting honey, lots of herbs for drying and pesto, along with foraged leaves and roots for teas— sassafras, beauty berry, sumac—and once we finally get some rain, it’ll be time for mushrooms.
Hubby will be filling the freezer with lamb and pork and freshening our flock for spring lambs and a few to add to our growing herd of milking goats.
Hibiscus in May, hibiscus today . … still not blooming because I got a late start.
The honey bees love the Thai basil and the native bees especially love the salvia and the sweet potato and luffa flowers. We’ve decided next year to plant an entire row of luffa in the orchard just for the bees and pigs.
Hope you can enjoy a moment of piglet playtime! Surely there will be time for a wee rest in late winter?
Sanity still reigns on the wee homestead and I thought maybe a few of y’all might need a decent dose of it during these crazy dog days of summer amidst continued global chicanery.
The garden looks more like a jungle, but there is a method to the madness. Mostly it’s called ‘too hot to bother’. Still, it looks better than it ever has this time of year (which is saying very little) so I’m proud of a few things worth sharing.
The pigs are eating well off the luffa, which does so well here it actually out-competes the grasses. I wish we liked to eat it too, but I do use the sponges. It’s widely consumed in some cultures, so I might keep trying recipes to see if anything can improve its very bland taste. Plus, the bees love it, so it’s definitely a keeper.
We’re pretty limited on the veggie harvest this time of year, which means eating okra almost daily. I’m really not a big fan and it’s not even a fun one to harvest. It’s prickly and the fire ants scout every inch of it waiting to fall into your gloves or onto your thighs as you cut the spears. Its only redeeming qualities, if you ask me, are that it thrives in the heat and the flowers are pretty.
It’s our first harvest of scuppernong grapes and I’ll soon be making some wine and jelly. I’m kind of sick of canning, after all the pickles and having tried several new canning recipes this year, but I must find the grit somewhere and get back to it. For my latest experiments we’ll soon be tasting pickled watermelon rind, melon butter, and some exotically flavored cucumbers. That’s in addition to all our usual staples of pickles and salsas and sauces.
I’ve also made poke wine! It tastes pretty weird, but is supposed to be an excellent medicinal, so I thought it would be good to have on hand this winter. Despite popular hype, poke berries are not poisonous. Well, not exactly anyway. The seeds inside the berry are poisonous if chewed. You must extract the juice or swallow the berries whole.
Our pear harvest was quite small this year, but those will be processed soon too, into cider and preserves. My favorite, figs, have been doing better after a couple years of total failure. Too bad we eat them too fast to preserve them!
I’ve settled into a nice routine with milking our goat Summer and am extremely pleased with the cheeses I’ve been making. It took some getting used to, fitting it all into a workable new plan, after making mostly large-batch cheeses for several years. I’m using only traditional methods now too, so no more expensive cheese cultures to purchase.
Organizing seeds and preparing the fall plantings are also in high gear. It’s a real challenge in 90+ degree temps to be considering the cool season crops. I’ve got some started indoors under lights and my direct sow method amounts to throwing a variety of seeds in the ground every week, waterIng liberally, and keeping fingers crossed. Usually, eventually, some seedlings get brave and make an appearance and if we’re lucky, will produce something before the first frost.
Handy Hubby’s still rockin’ the new utility room and it’s already looking fabulous! It’s been a 100% DIY project for him and he never fails to impress. Once done I’ll give him a proper staging and big kudos post.
Relatively speaking, we had an excellent year. I’m not the type to gloat, really. It comes as no surprise to me at all that my experience is pretty much the polar opposite of most folks most of the time. I accepted that ages ago and prefer to think I’m perfecting this ‘gift’ bit by bit, year by year.
Following are some highlights, some whys and hows and so forth, not meaning to boast or give advice, but rather to contrast previous years with my rosy 2020 perspectacles.
I perfected sourdough bread. I’ve been getting failures regularly for years without understanding why and thanks to one farm friend and her new guru, Elaine Boddy, I got the bitch slap needed to learn I was doing it ALL wrong. Not only was I making it infinitely more difficult than it had to be, I had a flabby starter and was creating needless waste. We’ve entered into higher consciousness sourdough on the wee homestead, praise be.
I have also become a Kombucha master. Really, a master. It’s easy to say that for a number of reasons, but especially because so few folks drink it around here, or like it once they try it, that it’s in the realm of ‘acquired tastes’ and only needs to appeal to Hubby, and two nearby friend-aficionados. I’ve been working on signature blends for months, using seasonal herbs and fruits, have Kombucha vinegar in a few flavors and am now aging Kombucha champagne. It’s the funnest thing ever. Or, I’m just a real geek like that.
Of course, no one becomes master without help, and in Kombuchaland, this is Scripture:
Three great gardening successes overshadow the multiple failures—like a second year of sweet potato perils and a fourth year of melon miseries. I leave those to ponder in an upcoming post. For now, it’s Cranberry hibiscus, Blue coco beans and Trombetta squash. I really can’t praise them enough and they were prolific and worry-free and I can’t wait to plant them again in profusion.
But I once said that about the sweet potatoes and the melons, so I’ll shut up now.
Extra-special mention goes of course to the best news of the year, Hubby’s layoff-rebranded early retirement, a somewhat unexpected miracle that has improved my reality already in very unexpected ways. Sometimes the true weight of a burden isn’t fully realized until it’s lifted.
I knew he’d take over most of my animal chores leaving me more time in the garden and the kitchen, where I most prefer to be. And that he’d build more and relax more and check off items on the to-do list at a more satisfying pace. We’ve added two large asparagus beds, coop 3.0 has raised the bar once more in poultry housing, the orchard looks positively professionally and my promised potting shed is in the planning phase finally.
What I had not expected was how good all of that would feel and that it would come so early and that he’d be so glad about it and that we’d be prepared enough for it to not miss the income much in the foreseeable future.
There’s incredible empowerment and peace of mind in preparing, and not just financially. It has gone in a single year from “Prepping” being something we heard mocked for a decade in the mainstream to now feeling like we were choosing wisely all along—not the easy road for sure, but the right road for us and the many others doing likewise.
And with that a wee bit of a boast.
And another. Still, mask-free, with no need or intention to alter that reality or any of the layers horse shit coming down the pipeline with it in future. Have I earned the right yet to say what I really think about these fucking vaccines? Decker, at Dispatches from the Asylum, says it best so far: vials of battery acid.
Just mark me down in your permanent ‘anti-vaxx’ file and if they send the goons to our house, warn them they’ll be given a good ole-fashioned goose chase. (hmm, bravado before breakfast, I must be feeling good!)
Food for thought for the New Year:
“Ignorantly worshiping our own being on the theater of the external world leads to pathological behavior and neurosis. We are ensnared and enslaved to the will of despots in all sorts of guises. We are wide open to irrationality, manipulation, mania and insanity. As parents often work to deliberately undermine our will and identity, the world’s leaders and misleaders use our psychic dissociation to their advantage. In fact, our estrangement from ourselves is the main reason for the rise of all tyranny. However, the deadly predicament ends the moment we heed the inscription at the Oracle of Delphi – “Gnothi Seuton” or Know Thyself. No other instruction is needed on the journey toward enlightenment.”
As the United Nations, Club of Rome, World Health Organization and various other international ‘public-private’ partnerships try to propagandize the world into their vision of “Global Sustainability” there are a number of crucial variables they’ve left out, which localities could capitalize on, if they were made aware of this potential.
For example, did you know there are salt mines all over place in this country? Salt was the basis of our first ‘trade markets’ — long before exotic spices of the Orient — salt was King of the World.
Salt was, well, worth its weight in gold, as the saying goes. Why do we import tea, the ‘native Americans’ might have queried of the mostly British expats settling here? There’s perfectly good tea all around you, can’t you see? And they might have made a few good jokes about that.
But salt? You’re going to import salt, too? What the bleep for?! That’s not even joke-worthy, that’s just a dumb-ass death sentence! You know it’s everywhere around here, right? And the gold y’all so covet, what’s that for, exactly? Y’all are really so very attached to your adornments, eh? Good choices there, give over your salt, so you starve, for gold, so you can pay your taxes. Brilliant system!
Here on the wee homestead we came inspired to see how long and far a road it is to self and community sustainability. We were thinking like most homesteaders, survivalists, etc., are thinking—food, water, energy. Obvious, these are crucial.
But what about the salt? That, along with the water, was the very first thing either robbed, buried, or tainted by the industrialist-minded settlers. Not the ones who came for a better life more aligned with their God and purpose, the ones who came expressly to profiteer for the pay-masters back home.
Long before our water and air were compromised, our people enslaved to the State and our ranges overrun with slave labor, our salt was “buried” by the Global Regulators. There are salt mines and primal (renewable, sub-surface geysers, essentially) water available all over this country.
That was known centuries ago! But go ahead and demonstrate your loyalty to the State, that tricked and enslaved your Great, Great Grandparents and before, by wearing that muzzle of submission and voting for your next tyrant.
Don’t care where your salt comes from? Next you don’t care where your water comes from, or your food comes from, or your energy, or anything else.