2 acre farm: November 2009

2 acre farm

The experiences, trials, and lives on a small farm in rural Illinois.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Project 2: The Compost Bins

Finally, I finished the compost bins that I had mentioned in an earlier post (refer to November 9th post, "Project 1: the mini greenhouses"). Just like the mini greenhouses these compost bins are made completely from reused materials that were discovered in the loft of the barn. Since I didn't use treated, cedar, or some other rot resistant wood I'm sure that they won’t last as long as they could but I really strive to reuse any possible material. Not only does it feel good to challenge myself to "reduce and reuse" it is also a relief to any pocket book by saving money and building the compost bins for FREE. I even scavenged around the garage finding and reusing the nails that hold them together!

To make the compost bins I simply dug out a spot roughly six feet long and three feet deep creating an area which was level. I then cut whatever wood was available into three foot pieces and also cut six additional 2x4's to use as four foot posts. Next, I nailed the sides together to make three foot by four foot rectangle walls, assembled the entire thing and wired the lattice fronts on. The two final bins are 3' x 4' rectangular prisms side by side. One compost bin for use and one decomposing...hopefully, that's the plan.  The two bins won’t be my only compost source but they will be the tidiest. I plan to also have several compost piles elsewhere (placed for convenience) but they will be simple heaps with no bin.
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Friday, November 20, 2009

What Pond?

After several days of rainy weather (with yesterdays exception of sunshine in the evening) it was a relief to wake up to the promise of sunshine and warmth. This morning when I took Moonie (our rescue dog) outside, I went ahead and threw on my boots and walked to the back of our 2 acre farm to see how high the water had risen in our pond...well, we call it a pond. Actually, some 20-30 years ago it was a watering hole for the sheep raised on our property (which has since been divided and is now known as our 2 acre farm). At some point after the original owners sold off sections of their property, along with the sheep, they knocked down part of the dam. Despite the attempt, over the years the small natural spring which fed the watering hole has continually replenished, keeping the area highly saturated during dry spells and becoming a source of fresh water for the deer after heavy rains.

The pond is just one of our many projects planned for this coming spring. Eager to get started, Nathan has already spent several days clearing some of the underbrush and scrappy trees (which will soon become fence posts) that had taken over the remains of the previous dam. We will still need to backhoe some of the dirt and rebuild the dam but as long as the natural spring remains cooperative the rain should take care of the rest. The pond will undoubtedly provide us with a great watering source, endless hours of fishing, and since it will be hard to get away with a new baby, the perfect view for camping!

Right now the outside wireless weather station reads 61 degrees, a concept hard to imagine at the end of November in the Midwest, and I am itching to migrate outside and get something accomplished. Keep your eyes peeled for updates on our little pond and the 2 acre farm!
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Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Moment of Sunlight

After several (nearly 5) days of rain the sunshine finally broke though the clouds just long enough for us to get outside and soak-up a little dose of vitamin D. So after school my daughter and I decided to take this brief opportunity to create an enclosed terrarium. A terrarium is a self-contained and controlled atmosphere that is created within an enclosed glass or plastic container filled with small plant life. The idea is that once the plants become established they will nearly become self-sufficient (some lasting without watering for months) and create a climate and watering cycle of their own.

During a visit this past weekend with my grandmother, Momadee, we had been given a giant plastic container which she suspected would serve some kind of purpose (she is also the source of the solar blanket used in the tiny-greenhouses). Over the years we have learned to take anything she passes our way, she is perhaps the most resourceful person I have ever known and despite the collection of items sitting in our garage for months even years, we always find a good use! So upon her suggestion, we put the old pretzel container to use and converted it into a terrarium.

Being that this endeavor was quite spontaneous and last minute we used what little resources were readily available, some recycled potting soil and a very old packet of mixed seed. If the project were a little more thought out I would have put some sand or gravel in the bottom for drainage. In addition, I have a feeling that if the seed even survives (it must be 2-3 years old) the flowers will quickly burst towards the top, begging to escape. Ideally, I would have preferred to plant some herbs or smaller greenery.

We shall soon see how this little experiment turns out, but until then... what a great project for a perfect afternoon, in a moment of sunlight!
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Local Harvest

There is a website where farms, famer's markets, and other locally produced goods can register a listing and then you can search the database by location. When you search it will give you a list of places near your location and you can then click on them for a description, contact information, and a website if they have one.

If you haven't used this you should check it out it is quite a niffty tool. If your a grower and you haven't signed up you definately should. The service is free but they do ask for a voluntary donation. The webiste can be found here: Local Harvest

I wrote a ehow article on it along with some other basics ways to locate local food here: How to Find Locally Grown Food Sources.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Quick and Dirty Movie Review: Food Inc

This image is a still from the movie Food Inc of a chicken house where chickens are mass produced.

After much anticipation, the local video store finally had an available copy of the DVD, Food Inc. This breakthrough eye opener will definitely make any consumer think twice about what foods we put into our bodies and the mouths of our loved ones.

Initially I was afraid that the movie would be nothing more than a recap of the DVD, The Future of Food. However, despite the little bit of parallel information provided, Food Inc. certainly provides a large amount of fresh information and relevant interviews. Food Inc. does not just expose the GMO controversy surrounding Monsanto but also talks about the food industry as a whole, from production to consumption. Food Inc is a must see movie for any consumer who is concerned with how our food is produced and processed. Food Inc will raise the question “Where does my food come from?”

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Friday, November 13, 2009


It always humors me how everyone has their gardens torn out by September. I always try and tell people how they could be harvesting produce into November even here in the Midwest often with no special care. Most people look at me like I'm insane. I currently still have cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, peas, lettuce, spinach, and kale in my garden despite having had at least four frosts already. We just had another pretty hard frost yesterday; it dropped down to 29 degrees fahrenheit on my thermometer.

I also wanted to give an update on the mini greenhouses. My transplanted spinach is hanging tough and the first seeds have emerged! Interestingly enough I noticed the first seedlings the morning after the 29 degree night. So far the greenhouses are working very well. There are a lot of pictures below. I hope you enjoy them.

Notice the chewed up cabbage and cauliflower leaves. I am starting to think BT is overrated. The cabbage worm damage has had no effect on my harvest. In fact the cabbage heads themselves are nearly undamaged.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Carrot Test

I tested the possibility of growing a late crop of carrots. I mostly did this because we moved to our new location in August and I was planting a fall garden and had carrot seed available. I wouldn't say it is a horrible idea as you can see in the pictures the carrots are small and immature but very edible. This isn't something I would recommend for a market garden but if circumstances called for such a thing it would be viable in a home garden. I planted them in such a rush during the move I don't even remember the variety but I know they were some shorter variety, probably Danvers. I still have more to pull but I will let them hangout for a while. My experience has always been that carrots store well in the ground through most of winter. At least until the ground starts to freeze deep.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Project 1: The mini greenhouses.

I mentioned in an earlier post I was working on some greenhouses/cold frames. It took me a while to get the details worked out and I finally decided it was not worth the effort to make them have a 50 degree angle which is ideal for my latitude. I instead made them have a 45 which is much easier to work with, especially when you’re just a novice carpenter like me.

My design starts with a primitive footing made of a single layer of reused clay bricks. The "footing" is mostly to keep the wood off the soil so it will last longer. I then used various scrap wood to create a frame that allows the recycled windows to lay flat. This design allows me to use a window anywhere from 26 to 38 inches because the windows do not fit into the opening. This design is less efficient for insulating purposes but much better for using recycled windows shall they ever need replaced. The only things I have bought are a few hinges, some expanding foam insulation and some white styrofoam insulation. I also used some hand-me-down solar blanket scraps on the masonry wall to help warm it for heat storage. The idea is that the heated wall will radiate heat through cold winter nights and keep the plants alive. I am not going to go into the details of it all but if you’re interested contact me and I could try my best to sum it up or search the internet for “solar heated greenhouse” and you will quickly find the large scale versions of what I am experimenting with.

In the first house I transplanted and direct seeded spinach. My hope is to be able to harvest through most of winter. In the second house I plan to direct seed lettuce which I still need to order. Hopefully all works out but worst case scenario I will have some killer cold frames for starting seeds in.

Keep checking back for pictures of project 2: The new Compost bins.

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The Honest Scrap Award

I am very new to this whole blogging thing and I actually thought no one was reading this thing because I changed my template and forgot to put the Google analytics code in (I just discovered this today). So analytics was showing no views for over a week so I really thought no one was reading this. Apparently I was wrong because I have been graced with The Honest Scrap Award from a blog called Daphne's Dandelions. I am very grateful for this recognition. Thank You!

Here are the Guidelines of The Honest Scrap Award:

1. Brag about the award.
2. Include the name of the blogger who bestowed the award on me and link back to the blogger.
3. Choose a minimum of seven (7) blogs that I find brilliant in content or design.
4. Show their names and links and leave a comment informing them that they were prized with Honest Weblog.
5. List at least ten (10) honest things about myself.

I already covered the bragging and naming of my awarder earlier so on with the other requirements.

10 Honest things about me:

1. I got my bachelor's degree in fine arts with a specialization in ceramics. I am still working at a local family owned production pottery for the time being.

2. I originally started going to school for something related in life science. I took a ceramics class and got hooked.

3. I grew up in a rural area in the country on a small hobby farm. We moved to a largish city of one hundred thousand people when I was a senior in high school. I have wanted to live back in the country ever since.

4. I hate major league sports. I absolutely despise them for what they have become.

5. I love to eat canned smoked oysters on saltine crackers.

6. I am married, with an eight year old stepdaughter and have a baby due in March.

7. I am an avid deer hunter and try to eat venison as my only source of red meat year round. This is part of my effort to be as self reliant as possible.

8. Despite never finishing a paper on time in high school I have always enjoyed writing.

9. Out of thirty some-odd states I have visited my favorite is Wyoming.

10. Although I haven't picked it up forever I play the banjo.

My 7 brilliant blogs are (in no particular order):

1. Farmgirl Fare
2. Fishing for Words
3. My Tiny Plot
4. Tiny Farm Blog
5. Creative Thursday
6. The Contrary Farmer
7. Path to Sustainability
So there it is and thanks again!