Welcome to our 2020 garden! Let’s take a tour, shall we? I’ll share some of my favorite garden spots.

Nature’s watercolor. Look at the gorgeous colors that are created when green turns to orange.
Our three kale varieties. Like a mom, I love all three equally, but for different reasons.
I love this trellis of pole beans! By the end of summer it’ll be a beautiful arch of lunch greenery–I mean, lush greenery.
This diminutive plant wins the prize for fruit to leaf ratio.
One beet…
Many beets…
These sunflowers were little volunteers that I thought were squash plants. Now they hold up our volunteer tomato plants. Btw, say hello to one of our honeybees!
Three bees!
Spent pea plants create a tangle of parchment-like tendrils and leaves.
Corn. 100% American, but the tassels give off an exotic Middle Eastern vibe.
From a distance you would never guess that beneath the large, drapey zucchini leaves are some of the largest, most beautiful flowers in the garden. #modestishottest
This tomatillo is delicate and spindly.
These teeny, fuzzy beans will someday be on Josh’s dinner plate (or get eaten on his walk home from the office)
It’s not dill… It’s parsley that bolted. Teeny little parsley flowers!
Another beautiful contemporary watercolor from Mme. Nature. Title “Baby Broccoli in Wood Chip Mulch”

Today we got 6 ounces of the curly leafed kale and 12 ounces of the dinosaur kale.

I also did some maintenance on the tomatoes and saw four greenish-orange tomatoes, ready to be eaten this week!!

I went and picked more greens because I want to try making green powder. It’s a blend of dehydrated greens that are powdered in a food processor or blender. They can be added to smoothies and…that’s about it.

To preserve the nutritional integrity of the greens, they can be dehydrated on low heat or air dried.

The greens that I’m using are flat leaf Italian parsley, curly parsley, Swiss chard, and kale. I’d love to add more herbs, but my herbs are languishing this year. My fernleaf dill was eaten by slugs, and my sage and oregano aren’t off the ground yet. My chives died, too. Also, my rosemary is struggling with self-worth issues.

I picked 1 pound 12 ounces of greens. By the time they’re dried, they’ll weigh around 2 ounces, I’m guessing.

For the last few weeks Josh has been threatening to pull out the kale if we don’t start using it. The truth is that by the time I’m done making dinner, the last thing I want to do is harvest a fistful of raw ingredient, dirty up another pan and prep a side dish–I’m just mentally ready to sit down and relax. Truly, I LOVE having kale with dinner. When Josh comes in from work with a bouquet of kale and pulls out a pan, I am so grateful.

Late last night as we sat around the table with the kids, Josh started looking up ways to preserve kale. (No way I’m canning it–that’s gross) He suggested freezing it raw or blanching it first then freezing it. Less work is better, so I ran out to the garden in the dark and grabbed some to wash and freeze so we could test it out.

This morning I cooked the frozen kale, which didn’t even need to be defrosted. I put a little water in the pan, threw in the frozen kale, steamed it, then quickly and buttered/salted it. It was PERFECT!

Today I picked, portioned, and processed 2 lbs 12 ounces of kale (both varieties that we have). I froze them in 3 ounce chunks, wrapped in plastic wrap and stored in a freezer bag. I was able to get 9 three ounce pouches of washed, deveined and ready-to-steam kale.

Today we canned 33 trout that we got from Josh’s parents yesterday. The fish fit nicely into 14 pint jars.

It’s my first time canning fish, but not my first time canning meat. I canned beef and chicken last month.

Our pressure canner has gotten more use lately because of odd food restrictions and outages due to Covid-19. We just want to be prepared.

Today I planted tomatoes that I received from a Yamhill County Barter connection. Someone was looking for two truckloads of wood chips for their garden paths. I offered to give them some in exchange for anything “farmy” (like plant starts, fencing, cages, chickens, etc.)

Anyway, the woman I bartered with had a ton of heirloom veggie starts–so I asked her to pick out ten tomato plants. Here’s the selection she picked for us:

2 German Pink Tomatoes
1 Green Giant
2 Vintage Wine
4 San Marzano
1 Sunshine Cherry Tomato

…aaaaaand, one PURPLE TOMATILLO!!! I’ve never grown tomatillos before, much less a purple one! I’m super excited and I cannot type this without gratuitous exclamatory punctuation!!!!

One of my goals this summer is to grow enough tomatoes to supply our family’s tomato needs for an entire year. We probably won’t quite make it, but we’ll be closer than we were last year. This fall I’ll put more focus into preserving our tomatoes–most likely in the form of sun dried tomatoes, so that I can turn it into tomato powder, which is endlessly useful.

I’m fascinated by soil health. It’s not only a foundational component of growing crops and pasture, but is a crucial concept for responsible stewards of this earth to understand.

There is life under your feet. And many common farming practices work against Mother Nature, causing long term harm to our soil.

A few months ago Josh read a book where he learned that rototilling may not be the best practice for long term soil health. It’s incredibly disruptive to the complex and rich “underworld” of fungi, beneficial insects, burrowing animals, bacteria and other things that make soil more than just clay, silt and sand.

Of course, when we look on top of the soil we see a beautiful connection of plants, animals, fungi, and water. But life goes much deeper than that below the surface. I believe the richness of life under our feet may just rival the richness of life that springs from it.

Our original sheep are white St. Croix hair sheep. (In some ways they’re more like goats in their feel and appearance.) But our newest sheep are Shetland/Gotland blend sheep, and their wool is luxurious, smooshy, soft and so, so curly. It’s exceptionally curly when it gets wet. This video shows some of the curly goodness!

One of the tricky things about caring for the health needs of sheep is that they can’t talk. They can’t say “It hurts here,” or “I have a headache,” or “Something’s not right with my digestion.” I can observe some health symptoms, such as lowered head, hunched back, lethargy, limping, diarrhea, or pain indicators in the face. However, other health issues may be asymptomatic, eventually leading to what appears to be an illness with quick onset.

Is there anything a shepherdess can do to increase the health of her flock and prevent disease? I am reading a handful of books right now that are helping me answer this question.
I trust that If I provide a healthy pasture filled with beneficial plants and provide for their mineral, water and shelter needs, that the sheep will thrive. There is a place for Western medicine (treating the symptoms and diseases with drugs) in treating animals, but I’m interested in a more intuitive, synergistic approach to supporting the health of my sheep.
While herbs are incredibly beneficial, I want to avoid using them like pharmaceuticals. “Oh, Bessy the sheep has a cough? Let’s boil some dandelion root with a pinch of dock.” I want to integrate the beneficial herbs into the pasture to allow “free choice” foraging. Part of me really wants to believe that there is something inside the sheep that draws them to take what they need from nature–nothing more, nothing less. By domesticating these animals and removing them from their natural, fence-free environment, I have the responsibility to fill the pasture with a diverse mix of plants that will round out their nutritional needs and support their range of body functions (including the increased needs of breeding, pregnant and lactating ewes, as well as lambs during their first year.)

Josh discovered a website that maps all the different soil types in the United States. He looked up our address and found out that we have Aloha (pronounced uh-LO-uh) Silt Loam.

Technically I got my first radish a couple weeks ago. I picked it, put it in my jacket pocket and forgot about it. Today, though, I was able to harvest my first fistfull of radishes! Yay!I’m not a huge fan of radishes, but they’re great because they can be started in early spring and harvested a month or so later! They’re also incredibly easy to grow. An idiot-proof veggie.

Today I planted outside! Josh is stuck inside doing taxes, so I feel kind of guilty. I know he’d rather be outside with me. If he has time today after taxes, I’ll go outside and help with his projects.

I got the radish seeds in the ground. I also planted the pea seedlings that I started indoors back on February 22, 2019.

For the radishes, I took a 2×2 square of ground, turned it over a few times, mixed in some wood chips, scattered the seeds, and lightly tilled them under.

The pea seedlings went into the hugelkultur bed on the south side.

Today I started reading a book called Natural Sheep Care by Pat Colby. Chapter 6, titled Land Management, is a rich resource, and will be a foundational part of our sheep farming venture.

Colby says “[Land management] is the single most important item in any farming enterprise, be it fine-wool sheep breeding, meat sheep, dairying or stud breeding. Land management is the difference between ultimate success or failure. All disciplines demand land in very good condition mineral-wise. Without all the minerals being available in the right quantities, the microbes, mycorrhizae and other occupants of the soil cannot do their work to make it a living, breathing food factory which will nurture all who live off it.”

She recommends getting a soil analysis.

Today I picked up three free chickens from a lady who needed to rehome them. She said they all have been laying throughout the winter. Within an hour of us putting then in the pasture they had sneaked through the cattle panels and were browsing the side yard. It took some chasing to get them back in the pasture. Grant locked them in their coop overnight (without the chicken that Payne family gave us) to get them used to their new home.

Today I finished my first h├╝gelkultur mound. It’s 3 feet by 12 feet. I created it by digging a hole six inches deep. Then, I lined it with birch logs from a tree that we had to take down when we lived at our Crater Lane house. I added smaller logs and branches as the next layer. Next, I filled in the gaps between the wood with wood chips we received from various Chip Drop dumps. Finally, I used the first that I initially removed as the topping. Much of the sod that I dug up in th beginning was used on the bottom of the mound to prevent erosion.