The growing season went by in a flash this year! I am sure I can chalk it up to doing two farmers markets, taking on tons of homesteading projects, and adopting four baby goats plus a puppy. What a summer it has been on Green Willow Homestead. I’m so excited to share with you our Summer Update Video and go into a bit more detail on how we did things during the warmer months on the farm - plus a BIG surprise!
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Our 2021 Market Garden
As I mentioned in my Spring Update Video Blog, we focused on potatoes, garlic, and herbs this year. While the garlic went in the ground at the end of 2020 we didn’t plant potatoes until early May. This year we decided to plow our rows for potatoes with a middle buster and I highly recommend it. Our generous neighbor drove over with his John Deer and we made quick work of planting over 120 lbs of seed potatoes.
Using Living Mulch in our Market Garden
My take on the market garden this year was to use living mulch which is a living cover crop that acts as a mulch. We planted clover, chicory, plantain, and various grasses to improve soil structure and water retention. While you’d think that this would cause competition with water and nutrient absorption, it actually had so many benefits for our garden that I’m now a living mulch convert.
Thanks to the extreme diversity of plants in our garden, we had great pollinator action and predatory insect activity. The combination of living mulch and straw created ample habitats for good insects, arachnids, and amphibians. We experienced minimal deer pressure even though our garden wasn’t fenced in thanks to the deer munching on our cover crop rather than our veggies. Overall, our market veggies and herbs suffered little if any insect damage.
A few maintenance protocols I would love to share! First was using MycoBlast to water the plants once in July and once in August. The second was supplemental watering due to the drought. We used soaker hoses throughout the driest weeks of summer to make sure our potatoes were getting enough to drink. The third was spraying potato foliage with seaweed and fish emulsion in late June - again that link will be in the caption for you.
All of this to say our harvest was phenomenal. I like to wait until the potato foliage dies back to know it’s time to harvest. I also like to wait a few days if there’s a heavy rain so the skins are drier coming up out of the ground. First I mowed the dead potato foliage back. Using the middle buster plow again, we plowed up the potatoes to then pick up and cure for two weeks.
The trick to potato curing is to keep potatoes dry and in the dark for two weeks so their skins harden. Since we don’t have a root cellar, my creative solution was to lay out cardboard on our large car trailer and space out our potato harvest. Then I covered the potatoes with a dark breathable landscape cloth. We parked the car trailer under our Quonset building to keep the curing potatoes out of the elements. All in all, it worked great! We cured for two weeks and then sold about 800 lbs of spuds at the farmers markets.
In 2021 our farm sold:
Our Music hardneck garlic scapes and bulbs sold out at the farmers markets and 100% of our basil was sold directly to Perlick Distillery for their cocktails. Looking back on our market garden for 2021 I am extremely pleased!
How are the goats doing?
We adopted four adorable Nigerian Dwarf doelings in May and they have been doing marvelously. We bottle-fed them for almost two months and then slowly let them get acclimated to hay, forage, and browse. Bottle feeding was a joy for about one week and then it was such a chore. I know it looks so cute, but these little buggers are so nosy - literally, they put their nose everywhere and they head butt you in the throat. Needless to say, I was extremely pleased to get them off the bottle at the end of June.
My dad fenced in a nice long paddock for them, about 1000 ft of fencing in total, and they have been loving all of the prickly ash, raspberry canes, goldenrod, and ash saplings. In the three months they’ve been grazing and browsing, they’ve cleared about ¼ of the paddock in total. Right now with the leaves just starting to turn and fall off the trees - for them, it’s like potato chips are falling from the sky!
We decided to hold off on breeding them for the spring because Paul and I have a ton of other projects going on. For now, they are pampered brush hogs and that is quite alright with me!
Other Farm Projects
Thanks to all the digging and regrading we’ve been doing, there has been a ton of exposed soil we’ve seeded with cover crops. The mixes we use are from Green Cover Seed and the one shown in the video is their Summer Release blend. The blend has Hubam Sweet Clover, Sunn Hemp, Red Ripper Cowpeas, Mung Beans, Guar Beans, Soybeans, Grain Sorghum, Impact Forage Collards, Black Oil Sunflowers, Baldy Spineless Safflower, Mancan Buckwheat, and Okra. Needless to say - the chickens have LOVED foraging in it. I plan to cut and harvest the sunflowers for chicken treats as well.
Next on our farm projects list is our milk and medical room we are building in the barn. I mentioned in our Barn Update Video that we planned on insulating and finishing a workroom of sorts in our 100-year-old milk barn. My amazing husband and father have been working on this project basically all summer. They plumbed in water and electricity from our house, they framed the walls out, they poured a cement slab and exterior pad. This workroom will be a nice and cozy space for all my farm projects, egg washing, and medical care for our livestock.
Mushrooms! In the spring we inoculated oak logs with about 750 shiitake mushroom plugs. While many consider the process tedious, I found it meditative. We will hopefully have shiitake mushrooms coming up as early as next spring. I definitely plan on talking about inoculating logs with mushrooms spawn in another video, but since this is my first year - I don’t consider myself an expert on mushroom growing. Let’s see how everything does first - am I right? Also, can we talk about how small our puppy Dezzy is in this video?
Dezzy is now 8 months and nearing 80 lbs. She stands taller than her brother, Spot, but is devoted to him and us. Our Spot boy has been putting in work this year thanks to a family of foxes that have been terrorizing our flock. He has saved many of our hens multiple times this year and I don’t know how we raised poultry without him.
As for our big surprise - you’ll have to watch the video to find out!
Thanks for stopping by Green Willow Homestead! From chicken rearing to composting, we've got our hands full and we love sharing what we've learned along the way. Follow along as we turn the 80 acres we call home into a farm that serves its community and a homestead that nourishes us throughout the seasons.
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Favorite Books of 2022
2. Braiding Sweetgrass
3. As Long As Grass Grows
4. The Small Scale Poultry Flock
5. The Zero Waste Solution