Well now, Ain’t that a kick in the pants…

Things have been bustling around the farm as we work like crazy starting, bumping, and feeding seeds and seedlings for all the wonderful people who will buy herbs from us this coming season.   The past two weeks or so have brought us very nice and warm weather, but then this…

herb farm under ice

We had a lovely time selling herbs at our first market of the season, the Athens, TX farmer’s market.  It was warm and pretty, I worked outside in shorts bumping seedlings after I returned home and even went to bed with the windows open in my bedroom.  Then it happened, the blue norther blew in, the winds shifted so hard the noise woke me up.  I shut the window.

The rain came and then the ice and all the way the temperature went down, down, down.

garden trellis in the ice

Now, I have lived here all my life and I never get used to the sudden changes- it just boggles my mind! At 6 pm on Saturday my thermometer registered 72’F by 6 pm on Sunday it was 21’F.  That is hard on every thing- plants, animals and humans. I also knew that while the weather was so warm and wonderful that it would be foolish to plant any thing that could be killed by a freeze, it is Texas after all and I knew we weren’t out of winters grasp just yet.  My head did understand this concept, but I just kept hoping the weathermen would be wrong,  you know considering that they are only right 30% of the time.   Well, no they got it right. We are in a very deep freeze with all the roads coated in a thick layer of ice.

garden box with cover

Did I mention that our well is not working?  We had water at 6:30 this morning and then it just stopped.  We have and have had a heater in the pump house to keep the pipes from freezing so at this time we are just waiting.  As it is still 18′ F outside, it may be a bit until we know exactly what is going on.

I am quite happy to report that the greenhouse never dropped below 45’F and it is quite pleasant in there right now.  All the thousands of seedlings are happy and bright, growing right along.  I am also happy to report that by weeks end, our highs will be in the 60’s again.  

green house march 2014

The average last frost date for my area is March 15th, but given the past spring, this winter and the Farmer’s Almanac- I don’t think it will be safe to put out tomatoes, basil, and such until Easter.  The old timers had “Good Friday Gardens” for a reason.  But there are plenty of gardening options from March to April- Kale, Spinach, Cilantro, Thyme, Rosemary, Sage, Cilantro, beets, radishes, carrots,  and such will do just fine, even with a light freeze.  If you can cover the plants, you can put out broccoli, green beans, and squash.

So stay warm and dream of large gardens!

Biggest One Acre Farm In Texas

You might have noticed that my blogging has been a bit irregular lately- there is a good reason for this.  We are moving!  I love my hill, it is so picturesque- but…  Farming is hard enough when you are not battling gravity and facing the North.  This land has been maximized as best we can, but we now need something more.  We have been looking for awhile and nothing ever worked out, so we took a look at what was right in front of our face- a property that we have owned for about 6 years.

I must say that I was resistant in the beginning because I wanted more land.  But, this place is level (hallelujah!) and gets wonderful sunshine all day with a few shade trees sprinkled about.  Now, we are all excited.  We have leased land around the corner, and just a short walk away, for our goats and things are shaping up.

So, please bare with me as I move five species of animals, 3 kids, an herb farm and a business all the while our busy season is picking us steam with farmer’s markets every weekend and not to mention all of the building, tilling, and planting that is going on- whew!  But, God is good all the time and we are sailing smoothly along- but not without a lot of hard work.

Join us now as we make Hollyberry Herb Farm the biggest one acre farm in Texas!

New Farm

The view from the front porch, this entire area will be the permanent herb gardens.  Tony is preparing to cut down the cedar tree- which is now gone and the branches will be the supports for the tomato plants.  That huge pile of rocks is in the process of being moved to line the beds in the herb garden.

new greenhouse

Tony and Jonathan are putting together the new greenhouse.  As of next week, all of our seedlings will be moved into the new and much larger greenhouse.  Of course, once Easter passes, the seedlings will all be moved outside.

Jonthathan tilling

Jonathan couldn’t wait to get to run the tiller.  Of course, we have tilled so much that he is quite done with it now.  All the kids have helped, but Jonathan has really stepped up.  He is right there with me everyday moving rocks, digging holes for the new plants, just about everything.  He is very strong for an eleven year old boy and this work will surely make him stronger.

the land

new farm

These are pictures of the back of the property.  As you can see, it is a blank slate.  It is almost as though we are starting from scratch and needing to build chicken houses, fences, gardens, and animal housing, but we are not really.  We now have all the knowledge and experience that 7 years of homesteading has given us.  And that my friend, is more valuable than any barn.  So, here we go- let’s see just how much one acre can produce.  I believe we will all be surprised.



Monday- Surprise, Surpise, Surprise!

Not that it is ever easy to get out of bed on a Monday when the alarm goes off, but today was really tough.  For one thing, it was just so dark so it couldn’t be time to get up.  When I did pull myself out of the bed to let the dog out, I saw why- there was snow and sleet everywhere!  The cloud cover kept the sun from shinning to tell us to get up!  What a surprise, the weather forecast had no mention of the white stuff.

Sierra hates the cold.  Jonathan likes it, so Sierra made him a sweet deal and he did her chores for her.  That left her to put her fleece PJ’s back on and help me with breakfast.  This kind of morning calls for a farmhouse breakfast- fresh eggs, bacon, hash-browns, homemade biscuits, and gravy.  Yum, Yum, that is my kind of food!  Tony came in from unloading hay and we all had a good breakfast together.  Homeschooling & a home-based business let us have fun in the morning.

The first bloom in the greenhouse- Calendula Pacific saying "Hello"
The first bloom in the greenhouse- Calendula Pacific saying “Hello”

I had hoped to fill all the trays with compost, but that will have to wait for a bit better weather.  So, I made myself busy in the greenhouse.  Once the sun came up the temps in the greenhouse were quite comfortable.  All the Calendula Pacific in four inch cups were bumped to 1 gallon pots.  It feels good to get those done.  Now, there is more room for the seedlings coming up.  Dill and Mullein sprouted almost overnight and are already in the greenhouse working on their real leaves.  As soon those real leaves are present, they will move up to 4 inch cups.

This was the first Monday to be a “regular” Monday since before the holidays.  It was nice to get up and finish laundry, do our homeschooling, and farm work.

How was your Monday?

The Weather Is Teasing Us & So Are The Goats

Feeding Geese at the park
Feeding Geese at the park

Both today and yesterday were spring like, making us long for the cold to be gone for good!  But alas, rain moves in tomorrow and cool temps follow bringing another couple of mornings below freezing.  But the weathermen have missed it before, so maybe it won’t get so cold.  One can hope…

We certainly took advantage of the balmy days.  Yesterday found us at the park feeding geese and walking in the sun around the park’s lake.  It was so nice.  Sierra still loves to swing and Jonathan loves the merry-go-round.  He had a bit of a mishap on it and landed in the mud puddle.  Then it was time to go home.

Sierra Anne
Sierra Anne

The last of the chickens for sale were picked up this morning.  I sold about six more than I planned but that was Sierra’s fault.  She heard me telling Tony that I had recieved another call from a buyer- but he wanted a dozen hens and I didn’t want to sell that many.  Sierra then asked me how much hen’s are costing at First Monday (a huge flea market here in Canton) I replied, “$10.00”  then she asked how much we were selling our for, “$12.00” I replied.   I was feeling quite proud that I was getting such a good price for my very lovely birds.  She then said, “So, sell him yours and go buy more and you will still make money on the ones you sell.”  Shrewd little business woman she is, I took her advice and sold some chickens.  Then I went and bought chicken feed.  I love it when the animals pay their own way!

While outside in the sunshine, I took time to tend the chicken house.  It was time for some lime.  I hate to use it in the chicken house because I am concerned that too much won’t be good for then hens when they scratch it up.  So, I only apply it under the roosts where the poop really builds up and then I bury it under 6-8 inches of shavings.  This seems to keep everything in balance.  If you have chickens and the coop smells, it is not the chickens, but the management that is to blame.  With adequate space for the chickens, deep litter, a thorough cleaning once or twice a year everyone will be healthy, happy, and odorless.  The biggest challenge will be under the night-time roosts.  Chickens poop A LOT when they sleep.

Six week old Barred Rock chicks, by fall these girls will be laying eggs.
Six week old Barred Rock chicks, by fall these girls will be laying eggs.

Once the coop was tended, we turned our attention to the herbs.  We filled close to 100 gallon size pots that are now awaiting lemon grass starts and calendula seedlings.  Eight trays are now filled and ready to receive the next batch of seedlings- which will probably be Tashkent Marigolds.  I then got about 40 trays ready to be filled, each tray holds 20 cups.  Those aren’t big numbers, but I was glad to get them done.  Come Monday, all the trays will be filled with compost and all the other trays will be prepped for filling.  What is hard to believe is that in just six weeks all these cups will be filled and home to plants and ready to be someone’s garden.  It’s about to get CRAZY around here.  Since the silly goats have not had babies yet, they are probably going to wait until I am smack in the busy season and then kid.  Stinkers.

One thing I know, farm kids know how to work.Sierra, Savannah and Jonathan helping me fill trays.
One thing I know, farm kids know how to work.
Sierra, Savannah and Jonathan helping me fill trays.

Saturday is an early day, I am going to a cheese making class!  This class is a Christmas present from Tony.  I have been wanting to make cheese from our goat milk for quite awhile.  While in Winnsboro, I will stop by Jersey Girl Dairy and get some fresh, raw milk.  The milk from this dairy is really good.  Now, if the goats will only kid out I will be in business.  So, off to bed for me.

Kandi our fist goat and her baby, Kit Kat.  Kandi is bread and will have babies one day...
Kandi our fist goat and her baby, Kit Kat. Kandi is bred and will have babies one day…
Geraniums in the greenhouse.
Geraniums in the greenhouse.