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2018 Fall Re-Garden

Well sometimes you get a clean slate in the garden such as the start of Spring when the ground is warming and you finally have the chance to scratch that itch you’ve had for all of 2 months (here in our area, planting is basically a year round thing)! Sigh. It has been my goal to not be too negative about crops lost to hurricane Michael. In fact I’ve attempted to get this blog done for nearly two weeks! The reality is that what we lost pales in comparison to the thousands who are still without power and many others without homes. Also on the agriculture front here in the South there were millions of dollars of Cotton crops lost. I never paid too much attention to local agriculture prior to becoming a homesteader. The truth of the matter is that on the small scale of which we operate, it is easier to recuperate than if we were larger. For that, I am thankful. So how do you get over losses of crops? Here is what we did:

  • Inventory: This was perhaps the most depressing part of the process. Just walking through and seeing things wilted, leaning, dying – so NOT cool! This however is a very necessary step. During this particular time of the year we still had some summer vegetables that were still productive. These were not included on our list since they were already at the end of their life cycle.  What we did include were plantings relevant to the Fall growing season.  In our case this meant that our Swiss Chard, Peas, Scarlet Kale, among others, needed to be added to this list.
  • Organize:  This step is all about the numbers.  Now its time to see if you can get the lost crops replanted and to a suitable size before your fist frost date. Get your seed organizer out and read the backs of those packetsFortunately for us, since most of our crops are ready for harvest in about 50 days, we had time to replant. Here is an area you can prioritize if you are running short on time. We were still cleaning at this point and as areas became clear we replanted. If this happens to be your case then prioritize planting in these are by 2 criteria:
    • What you need – Plant things you absolutely need for your family, your farmers market, or wherever you are sourcing your produce. This could be your cash crop or even a member of the dirty dozen that you never buy commercially.
    • Seed to Harvest time – Plant those crops that have a lengthier harvest time  right away! Even if your dates for first frost and harvest date overlap it is OK, especially in the Fall crops. For us these included our root crops – Carrots and Rutabagas.
  • Plant: Put all your research and planning to action! Get those seeds in the ground with the confidence that you did your best, despite the challenges, to have a successful crop!
Down Sunflower
Sunflower Down!

When I am down, I turn to my soil, my garden beds, and plots for solace.  When they are down I just feel awful! I’m sure you agree. So for a change, let’s help our gardens to regrow & rejuvenate. That is what our 2018 Fall Re-Garden is all about! Follow our journey on our Facebook & Instagram pages.

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Where Have We Been?

Winter months are upon us which means we have less to do. So where have we been? Where do we start?! How about the beginning?

Since we have been gardening seriously we have experienced loads of joy and with that comes some disappointments. As we have evaluated our failures in farming we realized one thing – more financing is needed. In our household there is one working individual and that is our financer, my husband, Mr. Bain Home Gardner. This being the case, its extremely difficult to have on hand, at all times, the supplies & tools needed to be successful in organic, chemical-free growing (OCG – my acronym). I prayed long and hard about it wondering if we just needed to give up the whole idea. The benefits however, far outweighed the costs! Not only have we been able to live a healthier lifestyle but our regular customers depend on our success – in fact they need us to expand! How?

I began researching grants available to new farmers. My friend Rachel, manager of our sister farm, Hawkins Homestead Farm, had already done extensive research and shared her knowledge with me. I was so appreciative. There is so much information out there and it is hard to know which rock to look under without proper direction. We were able to get more information from farming agencies. One thing that I learned is that most grants (some called subsidies now) do not cover the cost up front, rather there is a reimbursement process. Secondarily & just as important, I learned that the awarded funds in some cases would not cover cost 100%. These are very important factors for us! Where would the funds initially come from? How would we cover the gap? Research continued.

At this point I cannot really recall exactly how I came across the Cultivating Change Grant Program. Perhaps it was while researching. Perhaps it was a pop up as Google spied on my other grant research. Either way, I found the program online mid November. It just seemed just right for what we needed! As I read I saw that our participation would be based on a popular vote contest. I thought, “We could do that!” I created an account and began to layout our plan for expansion. This was harder than I originally thought. We have talked over our plans for expansion but they were planned for a 3 year timeline according to the availablity of funds. We firmly decided not go into debt since we have been working to be completely free of it within the next 4 years. However, the grant would allow us to expedite our expansion and allow us to give back to our community sooner. Thus our planned time line had to be adjusted. But wait, there’s more!

Once the timeline was established, cost expenditures had to be calculated. Where in our pervious plan we estimated cost based on what we thought it would cost, now we actually had to call and research to get accurate estimates. Once that was done we had to choose 5 photos that gave an accurate representation of our farm. This I thought would be easy since I have folders upon folders of photos on the computer of the garden but that actually made it much more of a challenge!

Most of this was worked out along with our sister farm. We helped each other select photos and proofread each others project goals and objectives. How long did it take? I created the account on November 13, 2018 however the application was not completed until December 15, 2018 – which coincidentally was the deadline for the application.

So where have we been? We have been working hard to ensure that we, along with Hawkins Homestead Farm, win this popular vote contest! So we need your help! If you have not already done so please head over to Cultivating Change and register to vote. It should only take about 2 minutes. Once you are registered you can vote daily for multiple farms. Winnings can be up to $10,000. That would mean the world to our family farm!!! You can access direct voting by clicking below:
Bain Home Gardens
Hawkins Homestead Farm

insta-vote2As I have looked over the profiles of the farms enrolled, there are so many beautiful, deserving farms. I am so proud to be a part of this community of growers that spans over the globe! As of now, our votes are not as high as we had hoped. Thankfully we have the entire month of January to acquire votes so please take the time (60 seconds) each day to vote for our farms. We cannot do it without YOU!

Farm to Table

Sesame Noodles

So you had Spaghetti Sunday. It is now Tuesday. Somehow there is always more meat sauce. Ugh. Why? So how do you make use of those left over noodles? Well today we made use of ours for a late lunch and thought we would take a few moment to share.

The Ingredients

  • Left over noodles – Remove the noodles from the refrigerator and set aside. We had about 2 cups.
  • 4 packed cups of cleaned salad greens – We had a tub of organic greens in the fridge to which we added some baby kale from the garden.
  • 4 tablespoons of Sesame Ginger Salad dressing
  • 2 tablespoons of Olive Oil – We used our homemade Basil Infused Olive Oil which added a whole other level of flavor!

Seasonings (always to taste)

  • Honestly the flavors already in our noodles and the flavor from the dressing meant that no extra seasonings were required. If you didn’t season your noodles a little salt to taste should be all that is needed.

Ready?

  • Pour Olive Oil into a frying pan and heat over medium heat.
  • Do not allow the heat to get too hot before adding the 4 cups of salad greens.
  • Allow to wilt for 1 minute then add the noodles. Mix well.
  • Add Sesame Ginger Dressing. Mix well and remove from heat.
  • In a bowl place your remaining 1 cup of salad greens. Top with your noodles and enjoy!

 

Like our recipe? Check our “From Our Garden to Your Table” series on Facebook!

Homesteaders Corner

We Have Jelly Melons

If you follow our Facebook or Instagram pages, then you already know Bain Home Gardens specializes in the unusual. In fact, it is our hope to make at least half of our garden fresh veggies of the unusual kind. It has been a challenge I must say. Many of the plants we have tried our hands at growing are not native to this area. As such, they are susceptible – perhaps more susceptible – to pests and diseases. Much monitoring and research is needed! We, however, have found it very rewarding! Jelly Melon

So what is  a Jelly Melon? Native to the Kalahari Desert, Jelly Melon is also known as the Horned Melon, the melano, the African horned cucumber, the jelly melon, and the hedged gourd. The taste has been compared to a combination of banana and  passion fruit or a combination of banana, cucumber, and lime. Strange right?! Thus the appeal for us! There are several of these on the vine and currently we are unsure if they will make it to maturity with cooling night temperatures. However, we will post an update by video when we harvest and taste these guys.

Why are we so stoked about this plant? Well it took many attempts to get this one! This plant resulted from the last seed of the packet. The other plants grew, and some even bloomed, but then fell victim to heat and/or disease common to cucurbits. Another reason for our excitement is that this is NOT something you will find in any grocery store in our city. I’m unsure as to how we would ever have tasted this without growing it for ourselves! Our kids will have the pleasure of tasting a fruit from Africa. For me that is really awesome! So much of what  we consume today is based of off availability, supply & demand – ECONOMICS 101. The idea of changing this equation, even if it is just for one household bring such joy!

What will be the outcome of The Jelly Melon Journey? Who knows? Stay tuned – it is just getting interesting!

Farm to Table

Shena’s Ginger Malabar Saute

Here at Bain Home Gardens we are having fun in the kitchen these days. We are expanding our flavor palate to include Malabar Spinach. Admittedly, it was very difficult to find a recipe that included flavors & spices we could easily get our hands on. See, Malabar Spinach is kind of an exotic vegetable. We found Bengali, Vietnamese, & Chinese recipes! No kidding. We didn’t realize how exotic it really was. This however was a good thing. We wanted to try new things! Going through the recipes, one thing was clear – Malabar likes Curry & Turmeric! Every recipe included it. Thankfully, the Bain household keeps these flavors on hand. A further examination of what was in the fridge & pantry and our recipe was born!

The Malabar Spinach

We hurriedly picked our Malabar Spinach right before a thunderstorm. In the rush we didn’t quite harvest enough but we made due with what we had. We used Red and Green Malabar in this meal. We also included the stems. If you use the stems please be cautioned: the older the stems are, the more woody they tend to be. Trust us there is no cooking it out – much like woody Okra!

All right! Go dust off your Wok or non-stick frying pan and let’s get to work!

  • Wash Malabar well.
  • Remove stems & chop thinly
  • Tear into 1 to 1/2 inch pieces

Seasonings (Always to taste) Other Things

  • Curry
  • Turmeric
  • Salt
  • Vidalia Onion
  • Ginger Root
  • Coconut Oil
  • Pear

All right. Let’s do it!

  • Place about 1 tablespoon of coconut oil into pan on medium high heat.
  • While oil is coming to frying temperature, grate about one teaspoon of ginger root and set aside.
  • If you haven’t already, now is a good time to slice that pear into thin slices.
  • Add onion (we used a medium-sized one, sliced coarsely) and Malabar stems to oil and cook for about 5 minutes.
  • Add Malabar leaves & pear slices. Stir frequently. Cook for 10 -12 minuets. If during the process the pan dries add about another teaspoon of oil or water.
  • Add Turmeric, Curry, & Salt to taste.
  • Plate & enjoy!

Continue reading “Shena’s Ginger Malabar Saute”

Uncategorized

Getting the Most Out of What You Grow – How?

So you’ve mapped out your garden, prepared the soil, researched what grows best, planted the seeds, and now it’s growing beautifully. One may say all that is left to do is harvest the fruits of your labor. Is that all – really? It could be, however in most cases you are likely not getting the most use of your gardening space.

Explore & Expand

In traditional gardening you plant, maintain, harvest, & repeat. We consider ourselves anything but traditional here at Bain Home Gardens so let’s amend that process shall we? Plant, maintain, harvest, & explore. What do we mean? Did you know the leaves of that young Okra plant are edible? It’s a fact! What about the Blossoms? Seeds? The answer is a surprising and resounding – YES! In fact, if you are willing to explore just a little bit you will find more to eat in your garden than you think! This is one of the best ways to get the most out of your garden! It will mean you will likely have to explore new recipes as well but it’s a small price to pay to expand your flavor palate!

Vegetables harvested for dinner

You may be hesitant to do this. After all, if everyone else isn’t eating it, there must be a reason. You are right, there is a reason. Most of these items do not store well and are not a safe investment for the grocery stores, so they do not sell them, the public does not buy them, and no one is the wiser that the blossoms of the Marigold flower are edible. Herein lies a funny story that I must share. When planning the garden out for Spring back in January, I asked my husband how he felt about flowers. He just looked at me with a blank stare. I clarified by adding, “edible flowers”, to which he immediately began shaking his head no. He said they weren’t for him to eat but rather to look at and admire. I didn’t pressure him. After all he has come so far. One day this month I was preparing to cook by cleaning and sorting veggies pulled from the garden. He came in and didn’t recognize that I was cooking and started his own thing. While our kitchen is big enough for two cook, if he wants to cook who am I to stand in the way? So I cleaned the Malabar Spinach & Marigold Blossoms and handed them to him. I told him I was going to stir fry the spinach with onion and add the blossoms at the end. I was certain he had put the blossoms in the fridge until we began to eat. He exclaimed, “Well I just ate a flower!” I nearly had to pick myself up from the floor! He had cooked them just the way I had planned. Later he revealed that he enjoyed them. He had expanded his flavor palate to include flowers.

So what’s growing in your garden that you didn’t know was edible? Below is a list of items growing in our garden not traditionally recognized as edible:

  • Okra Leaf- cook like spinach or kale or even eat raw
  • Okra Blossom – stuff with cheese, batter, & deep fry
  • Okra Seeds – press for oil, make granola, and even coffee – crazy!
  • Kale & Chard Stems – use raw in smoothies or a sauté
  • Broccoli Leaf – cook like collards or mustard greens
  • Broccoli Flowers – eat raw or add to stir fry at the end
  • Radish Leaf – Cook like kale or spinach or use for radish leaf pesto
  • Rutabaga Leaf – cook like collards or mustards
  • Carrot tops – add at the end of stir fries, smaller ones can be eaten raw in salads or wraps

Use Everything

Getting the most out of your garden doesn’t always mean you eat everything – after all, everything isn’t edible. What it does mean is being creative. If you cannot eat it then explore other uses for it or compost it.

Banana Leaves

Banana leaves are used for many things I have recently found out. The one use we will be utilizing is wrapping food in it to keep it moist while grilling. Cool right? The thick, nutrient rich leaves also are awesome for mulching as they will feed your plants as they breakdown as well as retain moisture.

Red Okra Blossom

Okra is in the article so much, you must know we love it! We do! It’s easy to grow and super useful. As its growing season ends, you may be tempted to pull the unsightly stalks from the ground in preparation for new plantings or to just rid the eye sore. Pause. Are you planting Fall peas? If so plant them in front of each stalk of okra and boom – instant trellis!

Whatever is growing in your garden we are proud of you for the effort you have put into it. We know it isn’t easy. It’s perfectly acceptable to reap the fruits of your labor and keep it moving. If however, your desire is to get the most out of your garden, we hope these ideas help you to explore & expand!

Our journey has been extremely exciting. For videos & photos of our successes & fails please like & follow us on Facebook & Instagram.

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Edible Landscaping – Finally Becoming Our Reality

It is a beautiful fall day. You go outside to check the mail, as you do you cant help but to admire the beautiful Marigold blossoms, beside them, tucked away ever so nicely are several bunches of Kale flourishing in the shade of the bushy Marigolds. On your route back to the front door you look up in just enough time to observe a Hummingbird foraging for nectar. Obviously the Okra blossoms were not what she had in mind although the bees do not seem to mind. Just before walking up the steps to your front stairway,  you

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Oriental Yard Long Beans on railing of front porch

pause to see the most unusual orchid like bloom on the railing. A closer look reveals straight long beans blowing in the afternoon breeze. You take a deep breath before ascending the steps and are graced with the most pleasing aroma – Basil. The flowers of the Thai Basil sway in the breeze while the Malabar Spinach glistens in the sun. Yes, this sounds like something out of a corny novella but it is a daily reality for the members of the Bain Household & edible landscaping is the reason.

Our home is situated on a corner lot in a semi-rural subdivision. It is literally the first home you see when you pull in. No pressure right? We take great care to ensure that our home offers eye candy rather than an eye sore. While rows of corn and okra are

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Red Okra Bloom

eye candy to me, let’s be real – it’s not to everyone. Therefore we have tried to in cooperate flowers into the landscaping to distract from the fact that we are actually growing food right in our front yard! If you live in an area that has a strict HOA this may not be an option for you. However, if you just have quirky neighbors or a husband who is very concerned with having his grass to mow on the weekend (me) then the following ideas may be of use to you.

Layout

Layout is everything in creating an edible landscape. Plant vegetables that have beautiful blooms and do not take up much space. For instance, at this very moment our son is planting peas which have beautiful purple blooms with full green leaves. Where are we planting said peas? Well, since peas require trellising, which can be a challenge to work into a landscape, we decided to plant them beside each of our Okra plants. Okra is tall by nature so we are making it into our own natural trellis. In front of the Okra will go Lettuces & Kales of varying shapes & colors. These both benefit from the shade thrown by vinning plants such as peas. Planting alternating lettuces with Chrysanthemums (Mums), which is an edible flower, further camouflages the produce. The eye is automatically drawn to the blooms and the colorful leaves of the lettuce rather than the Okra and Peas. This is just one particular layout we will be using this fall. If you are looking for ground cover, consider something easy like Mache Corn Salad which is leafy green good for sautes or salads.

 

Maintenance

With any garden, edible or not, maintenance is required. With edible landscaping, failure to be diligent in this area will all but negate the entire purpose of the previous suggestion.  Unsightly, dead or dying vegetables or flowers can sometimes be avoided by strict adherence to the following steps:

  1. Inspect. Daily inspect vegetables for pest and disease.  Many of which if caught early enough will not present a huge problem.
  2. Water. Basic to every garden is regular watering. Depending on the area in which you live, time of year, and/or the types of plants growing, you may need to water up to twice a day or as little as once a week.
  3. Mulching. This little trick is valuable in more than one way.  Mulching is known to add a level of sophistication to the landscape – the level of sophistication depends on the type of mulching.
    • Rock – For me this is the more elegant of the selection which can even be elevated further by the type of rock. Options from Lava Rock, Pea Gravel, Pumice Rock, or even Polished Riverbed Pebbles. This option, in my opinion is more appropriate for trees or bushes.
    • Straw – This likely the least expensive option but has to be replaced frequently. Be careful and research the sourcing of the company and ensure no chemicals were used on it, especially if you are placing in the vegetable portion of your edible landscaping.
    • Hay – This seems to be the most beneficial form of mulching, although not the most elegant. Although we have not used it yet, we plan to purchase ours from a certified organic farm in our area.
  4. Harvest. Failure to harvest produce frequently will signal the plant to go to seed. While some seeding plants are pretty and add to the glory of the landscape, others will do you no favors. So just go get your food when its ready.

Our home has many planting areas but in each one we try to keep in mind that not only do we garden here but we live here. I’m actually adopting this mentality. Previously I felt that I live here why be concerned with what it looks like – IT’S FOOD! See, growth is possible for anyone – even me. Granted, we are not always successful – believe me you! However, we try to learn from our fails and make the garden better tomorrow. So to all you deck, front yard, & plant it anywhere it will grow gardeners: YOU GOT THIS, just add a flower or two. At the very least the birds and the bees will thank you.

Remember, this is we share just a portion of our adventure. For pictorials, like and follow our Facebook and Instagram pages.