Cricket Song Farm

Cricket Song Farm

Monday, April 27, 2015

Transplanting RHUBARB

Here is a photo of one of my Rhubarb plants in Roosevelt.
I snapped it just as I was heading out the door to go (South) to the farm.  Knowing that my Rhubarb at the farm would be much further behind because it is much colder at the farm ,I threw in several big coolers to bring a large portion of my rhubarb plants back up to transplant in my garden.

Spent several very cold nights at the farm in my Vintage Airstream.  A little bit of water left in the bottom of the water bucket froze solid.  The night temperatures dipped to 10 degrees.  Good thing we had a big pile of blankets to keep us from freezing to death!

The Rhubarb at the farm was just breaking ground.  I dug out about 20 plants and carefully placed them in the coolers.  Leave as much dirt intact as possible so they won't dry out.  After transporting them back to Roosevelt, I cut each plant into 3 smaller plants using a sharp shovel.  

For successful transplanting dig a deep hole and fill with water.  Place the roots down and fill back with dirt about 3/4th of the way, just to the top of the crown.  Water in good.  The indentation will help collect the water for the roots. 

 Now add a shovel full of aged, composted manure, and add straw or old hay around the plant.  Rhubarb likes wet feet and the hay will keep the ground moist.  Generally you are advised to wait a couple of years to harvest, but I have always harvested the stems as they mature through the season, just don't harvest them all.  Leave at lease half on the plant. 

This photo is of a plant in the late summer that I had transplanted early in the spring.
You will not always have this kind of growth, but with my organic methods, home-made compost, and the "Gourmet Goat Garden Garnish" (from my beautiful herd of Nubians) that I liberally apply, this is my typical results.  I harvest the plant within 4 months of transplanting, remember.... DO NOT harvest all the stems.


make some Rhubarb Crisp
or a compote for ice cream....YUMM!!!

Monday, April 13, 2015

A Front Lawn is a good place to garden

I love a big, beautiful lawn.  Full of bright yellow dandy lions and red clover, a place for the kids to run and play, but if your lawn is large, why not plant a portion of it into a garden?  Over the years our front lawn has been transformed several times.  A 7 circuit labyrinth occupied it for several years.

walking the grassy paths inter-planted with vegetables and herbs,
breathing deep, the fragrance of summer.....
brings solace to the soul
click here for more information on Labyrinths

 A few years later it was incorporated into a section of the gardens. I left the middle area in grass, herbs, and a bird bath.

foreground:  Iris, one of my favorite flowers
several varieties of summer squash are next, spaghetti squash to the right
several rows of potatoes are planted on the far side

left a large patch of grass in the center

a small 14 x 20 ft. green house frame was moved to the north side of the lawn
 it is usually  planted with lettuce and spinach 
shade covers are added mid summer to protect the greens from the sun,
thus prolonging lettuce the season through the entire summer

This year the entire front area will be planted in vegetables.  The kids are all grown and gone now so the area is being utilized for vegetables.

.                                               We did however keep the tree lined back lawn.
A shady place to rest with a cool glass of ice water.  Plenty of room for the grandkids to run and play.  

Tips for planting vegetables in your front yard:

In the early spring till under the sod.  A large rear-tinned tiller will be necessary to use.  If that is not an option, lay out large pieces of cardboard where you want to plant.  Anchor them down, then begin adding layers of compost, grass cuttings, straw etc. on top of the cardboard, keep this pile moist.  This method will take a year to accomplish killing out the grass, but early the next spring you will have a nutrient rich garden area.  It will be easy to till under or to turn with a shovel or fork.
                                   As you plant keep in mind the size of plants at harvest time.
 WALL:  For a 3 foot section along a wall, plant trellises of warm loving tomatoes along the sunny south side.  Squash and cucumbers also do well trellised this way.  Plant med sized plants in front of trellised veges, broccoli, cauliflower, eggplant, etc.  then plant early crops like lettuce and spinach in the very front.

BOXES OR OPEN AREAS:  Plant tall vegetables in the center or back and work in layers according to plant height.  Check out the suggestions found on the internet about Square Foot Gardening.  Many gardening centers also offer classes about box/raised bed gardening.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Making your own POWDERED or DRIED milk

When I obtained my first Nubian Dairy Goats way back in the mid 80's, I began in earnest to learn all I could about ways to use the milk. Of course we drank it raw, I added it to the homemade soap I always had on hand, used it in all my cooking (didn't like it in a milk based soup however).  Made cheeses of all kinds and even experimented making powdered milk until I got it just right.  This was handy to have on hand during the few cold winter months I didn't have fresh milk.

  In the late 90's I submitted several of my favorite recipes using goat's milk to Mary Jane Toth, who was writing a cook book, the recipe for powdered milk was one of them. She accepted all the recipes and they were published in her book, "Caprine Cooking. "

Most everyone who has goats is aware of the book published by Story Publishing about raising goats. " Storey's Guide to RAISING DAIRY GOATS".    In the New Edition of the best-selling classic (pg.225), a reference is made to my recipe for dried milk taken from the Caprine Cooking cookbook . The authors' elude to the fact that they assume that the recipe works.  Well, I would like to assure everyone that it does work.  I showed my husband the reference to myself and the recipe and he just gave a snort and said  "Of course it works, you made it all the time!"

my husband with his favorite goat Diamond posing after they won
 Grand Champion and Best of Breed in an ADGA show

This is how I make Powdered or Dried milk:
Place 1 or 2 gallons of milk in a large double boiler.  Keeping the milk hot, but not boiling, the moisture (water) in the milk will eventually evaporate (in the form of steam).  This can take quite a while.  Keep an eye on the water in the bottom pan, you will need to add more water.  When the milk is the consistency of really thick cream, pour it into a large baking sheet and place in a low heated oven (about 250*) with the door left ajar.    When all moisture is removed the milk will be in a solid sheet.  Flip this out into a kitchen dish towel and then process in a food processor to make a powder.  Just pulse enough to break it up the large chunks.  Or simply crush it into a powder inside the dish towel.
Store in a tightly sealed glass jar. To use: soak 1 part milk solids with 4 parts water. Shake well to blend.

Here are a few suggestions.  I would use this within a few months if stored on a shelf.  For longer storage, up to 6 months, I would place the dried milk in a heavy freezer bag and store in the freezer.  I found that it tended to go a bit rancid (because of the protein solids) if left on the shelf to long.  If you have a cream separator I would suggest removing the cream from the goat's milk.  If using cows milk just let it set until the cream rises to the top and remove it.  I think this would keep it from going rancid.  I have not tried this however, but it seems logical.

I always free-fed my goats.  This allows them to produce greater quantities of milk, keeps them quiet, and I even have less hay waste by feeding whole bales outside the fence.

How to ensure the best milk production from your goats.  Keep them happy, always  rub behind their ears telling them how much you appreciate the delicious milk they give you.  Feed them the best quality, leafy hay you can find.  A goat can only produce according how they are fed....ample good feed, ample milk.  Also genetics play a part, but if you do not feed your goats a healthy ration, they will not have the ability to produce to their capacity. I feed them a corn and barley mix (without molasses) at milking time.  The above mentioned book has good information for grain rationing.  Always have a salt and mineral block available.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Getting an Early Start

Living in the high desert mountains of the South-West, I have the challenge of cold nights throughout the entire summer.  To help my plants along in the spring I use many methods to  capture the day's heat and provide a little extra warmth during the night.  With frosts until the 25th of June, tender plants need to be covered nightly to prevent freezing.  
Below are drawings of several of the methods I have used, some have worked well for me, others not at all.  If you have beautiful, warm spring weather, there isn't any need to even read this post, but if you struggle with late frosts you may find this post helpful.  My husband just couldn't believe that in Roosevelt (where we currently live) "you just plant a tomato in the ground and it grows without any covering".  We didn't have to cover them nightly, and uncover each morning, for 2 months (June and July) and then again in mid August when the Fall Frosts hit like we have to do daily at the farm in Southern Utah.

Here is my experience using these methods. 
Recycled Milk jugs or 2 liter pop bottles:  cut the bottom out and save the lid.  push the jug a couple of inches into the ground so the wind will not blow it over. Put the lid on in the evenings and remove by 10:00 a.m. to prevent cooking the plant.  This method works fairly well if you do not have to leave them on for too long as the plants will get leggy.  One problem I found when you took off the opaque jug after the weather had warmed sufficiently, the plant would become very easily stressed and often times would sunburn.  I need the extra heat in the spring so the jugs are not removed during the day.  If your springs are mild, simply cover the plant with the lidded jug in the evenings, and remove the entire jug during the day.  Your plants will never be stressed by the sun.

Corrugated plastic sheeting or fiberglass:  I have used this method several times with always the same result.  The sheeting is tied into an arch with baling twine, set over the plants and the ends covered with a flake of hay stood on end for the night.  I always lost my crops to frost using this method.  I wonder if the addition of a blanket at night may have helped. 

Glass bell cloches:  These are expensive to buy so try using glass gallon jars if you can find them. Use a glass cutter to cut off the bottom.  You must vent or remove this cover during the day to prevent cooking the plants.  The glass intensifies the sun's rays.

Plastic storage bins:  These large bins (use the clear ones) can be purchased at your local discount store.  Drill 10 or more holes in the bottom of the bin. This will allow the hot air to escape.   Place up side down over your transplanted warm weather crops and place a large rock on top to prevent the wind from blowing them away.  This method works really well.  You must gradually expose the plants to direct sunlight when the need for protection from frost has passed. 

Wire cages covered with plastic:  Place tomato plants in cages several weeks before your last frost.  Cover the cage with plastic. Secure the top and sides closed with duct tape  Poke a few holes in the top to allow the hot air to escape.  I plant these side by side in large groups so the cages will help support each other.  I also cover them with blankets when hard frosts are expected.  As the season progresses I cut slits in the plastic as the plants grow.  This allows them to harden off and receive more sunlight.  Continue cutting away the plastic until it is no longer needed.  Plants can also be covered easily when the fall frosts arrive.  (At the farm that is August 28th)!

My preferred method for early spring protection of individual plants is using the large 5 gallon black pots trees come in.  Check at your local nursery they often have these for sale.  using a small circular saw cut off the bottom on the pot.
In the picture above I have covered cabbage plants.  Cabbage can withstand early frosts so I do not cover the pots with a plastic bag at night.  The boards have been placed over the top to help prevent the new transplants getting too much sun.  Warm crops will be planted down the center of the rows later in the season.
The large plastic pipes (pictured at the left of photo) are planted with broccoli and Brussels sprouts.  A glass window is placed over them to hold in the extra heat if needed.
Once the cole crops have a good start, the pots are and planted with tomatoes the first of June.  A plastic bag is placed over them around 4:00 each evening.  This traps in the heat and prevents the tomatoes from freezing.  The large pipes are moved and filled with tender plants of peppers, eggplant, cucumbers etc.  A large glass window is placed over the top.  Simply slide open a corner to vent for the day and slide back over at night. 

Cold Frames made from second hand glass doors are placed along the south fence for more heat absorption.  

Use a thick mil green house plastic when building extra large cold frames.  Using baling twine around the edge and stapling over the twine helped re-enforce the plastic edges from the wind.

For rows of warm weather crops this is the best method I have found!
Using Cattle Panels, folded in half length-wise and covered with plastic sheeting is used for starting cucumbers, beans, and other tender crops.  3 or 4 panels are laid end to end.  A large sheet of plastic is laid over the panels and covered with dirt to hold down the edges.  On one end gather the plastic in a way that will allow you to water the rows and also vent during the day.  In late July or early August the plastic and panels are removed to allow the vines to spread out.  I keep a large stash of old bed sheets near by in case of frost.

Here's a post from a few summers ago:

Friday, June 1, 2012

ice crystals--aren't they beautiful

Well, I  think this picture just about describes how my week has been.  Lots of covering and hoping the plants survive.  I wish I had a better camera because they really are beautiful.  The frost Wednesday morning took out several tomato plants from the cold-frame.  Yes, this is typical weather for us.  Just wait til I show you frost pictures in JULY and AUGUST!

                        Thursday morning (May 31) this is what I found out by the far west hydrant

                                                            yip, they are ICE- CICLES

                                      So  I put the boys to work making some more cold-frames.

                                                         Notice it is a 2 coat kind of day

         but it did eventually warm up to a one coat day (extra coat is hanging on the fence)

Hope this gives you a few idea.  If you have any others please let us know.