Weeds are Beautiful, But Are NOT Always Fun

…Even for this nature lover. We embarked on a journey two years ago to bring our recently purchased acreage back from severely depleted to sustainable in as simple a way as possible. It wasn’t easy…we had to make tough choices, when and where to use herbicides, how long to graze each pasture, how much hay could we harvest to keep our small herd intact while improving conditions at the same time and how much hay would we need to purchase to compensate until we had the farm producing what was needed and still improving the quality.


Our acreage had been depleted to the point that the only thing you could find growing without getting down and looking underneath it was sericea lespedeza, perfectly fine forage for goats, but we have cattle, and ours, in particular, don’t like it. This beautiful little pest is prone to putting off chemicals called allelopathic compounds; toxins from both the leaves and roots keep other species from germinating, and robbing them of both moisture and nutrients, and keeps ruminants from gobbling it up.. Unlike most legumes, sericea is not beneficial to native flora. This species was introduced in the 1900’s to help control erosion and improve land reclamation. Unfortunately it was so invasive that it has become a noxious weed in most pastureland states, and you guessed it, we had it in profuse amounts!


1st year


2nd year

First we began mowing as there was simply too much growth on the plants to have any effect. As it began its growth again, we found that cattle would eat young shoots, but would not touch it once it passed 6 inches, or when the stems became woody. We then began an herbicide program to get rid of current growth. We broke the property up into paddocks that would allow us to control when and where the cattle grazed. Now going into our third year, we are looking forward to having only to spot spray seedling patches. We have implemented a hay cutting program that allows us to control height of cut and time of harvest. We have early season paddocks that we can harvest now, allowing the warm season grasses to fill out as fodder for the cattle during the summer and fall. We also have late season paddocks that will be harvested at peak for winter hay.

The most interesting aspect of cutting our own hay was the fact that we decided to attempt it as inexpensively as possible to find out what would work for us. We picked up a most ancient sickle mower that was set up with a 6 inch cutting height. What we found was that the pasture had no noticeable need to recover from shock in the areas we were cutting. The grass was healthier and thicker quickly, verses our experience with the 4 inch height disc mowers used at our previous property. We were getting faster recovery and more fodder. It does take a bit more time through the season, but a few hours a weekend on each paddock, actually makes it much more enjoyable than attempting to harvest all of it at once.

All in all, it was a valuable and educational experience and will continue to provide us with many more enlightening experiences as we go. I hope you find this insight both interesting and helpful. Happy Harvesting!

Life Finds a Way…

Jurassic Park…you remember that amazing piece of CGI that was all the rage when it first came out, and it is still popular today! Such a memorable quote from Jeff Goldblum in this iconic hit, but a quote that stayed with me throughout the years, so I thought I would take you on a picture journey of “Life Finding a Way” on my farm this year.

Bermuda is one of those plants that every gardener has a love-hate relationship with. An easy keep in the yard where it does not need to be mowed frequently,and fabulous forage for livestock, this little trooper can always find its way into a garden.

This poor bed has been neglected this spring,and is finally ready for our attention. Needless to say, manure, cured or not,  can replenish a bermuda supply quickly


As I said, Life finds a way!

Even the cat finds a way to spend time with me when it gets the chance!

This feisty little Mamma has found a way to keep cats from her nest…

This big beautiful beast has been removed from the vicinity of the house and outbuildings before, just goes to show we can always come back to our roots! A lovely way to say Never give up…Life always finds a way (if it wants it enough to go for  it)!



Spring is Springing Forth…In All Its Splendor

Spring is truly one of the busiest times of year for us, with prepping garden beds, calving season in full swing, starting seedlings in the greenhouse, cool season plants going in…but when you stop to take a break, stand up and straighten that back…take a deep breath…let it out slow…and look around…and listen….WOW! What a beautiful world we have!

Peach Blossoms are simply breathtaking….You can hear so many different birds singing….

A new birth is one of those precious moments…

The Hay stack is both warmth and great fun!

Life in the great outdoors is truly rewarding and uplifting. We live in an amazing world!

Enjoy your picture day as we go back to work…


A Half A Century! What Were We Thinking?

We were thinking a lot about the next half century, that’s what we were thinking!

One of the biggest influences when you hit a half century is knowing that you are on the downhill slide of your best health. When you have spent half your life being the strongest you can be, you realize that strength is the one thing you will miss the most. So you start to plan for making things work with the least amount of effort. Knowing that your youth is behind you, thinking about how you can continue on your path without having to ask for help becomes the first thought in how to approach a long term goal.

With that in mind, we decided conventional gardening was going to be more effort than we would want to spend our last 50 years caring for (we are always optimistic).

First we built the raised beds, and even in our young 50’s, they are fantastic, infinitely easier to maintain than a conventional plot. They cut maintenance by well over half, probably closer to 80%.

(The Blackberry bed) a bit late with the trellis system, but we should get a an easy upkeep, easy care system. and check out all that fertilizer in the background!

The Raised Beds

But so far, our favorite has to be the aquaponic’s greenhouse.  While the fish are still tiny, and we are having to supplement the plants, this is by far our favorite design to date.  And while we could have gone with the always easy Tilapia, we chose the harder but oh so delicious “fish candy” Crappie, because we did not want to have to heat the water during the winter. Oh, and while we got a couple of grass carp to grace the tank as well, one jumped out the first night, and we now only have one. (such is life on this crazy adventure) We will keep you up to date with how it goes.


The aquaponics system

We also chose the time and electric saving bell siphon design, and we could not be happier.

We actually built the tank first, a mini pond really. An underground 1800 gallon tank that feeds 3 large beds totaling 1200 gallons. We will add more beds as we find out how well the crappie do. Until then we still have the capability of growing more than the two of us can eat.

We decided right off the bat to get our citrus trees started, but as happens when time is precious, we did not get the greenhouse completely closed in before we had an early hard freeze,( -1), which does not usually happen here until  January. While the citrus trees are ok, they did lose all their leaves, so we are having to nurture them back. Likewise the tomatoes transplanted from the garden did not make it through the freeze, and so we had to start from seed there. Other than that, the plants are loving the new system. I have more oregano than I could possibly use, and it is multiplying faster than the lettuce is growing! Oh,and did I mention that strawberries LOVE an aquaponics system? (The old mason has been harvesting strawberries for the last month,in January no less!)

So when you start thinking about decades instead of years, be warned! Great things can happen!

Are you interested in Aquaponics, and how it can simplify your gardening experience? Did you know you can start much simpler and have a compact back porch system that supplies all your summer needs, while giving you a taste of how fun and easy it can be to grow your own food? Simply drop me a line and we can get you directed to the right size DIY project for you.

Officinalis…What does it mean?


When you see this word in the botanical name of a plant, sit up and pay attention. Not only does it mean that this plant has hundreds, if not thousands of years of  recorded use, it also generally means that it could be a dynamic accumulator.

Officinalis c. 1720 – kept in stock by a druggist; Medieval Latin – literally “of or belonging in an Officine” a storeroom for medicines and  necessaries.

And while I could go into great detail I really don’t want to bore you, so when you simplify how you look at it, these herbs have very deep root systems that bring nutrients up to the surface and to the plant, thereby bringing them up to surrounding areas as well. It also means that you do not want them in a bed that receives large quantities of irrigation. the more you water it,the more shallow the root system. Once you have it established,walk away and let it do its own foraging.

In a permaculture type environment, this is something to always keep in the back of your mind. One of the most important things you can do is keep nutrients close to the surface.

Plants like marshmallow(althea officinalis), asparagus(asparagus officinalis) lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), all are very good at bringing nutrients to the surrounding soil. Even the lowly dandelion(taraxacum officinale) is a dynamic accumulator!  And as a bonus they are all edible in one form or another!

So here are some of my favorite Officinales

Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis) Asparagus is either loved or hated by anyone who tastes it, and I am a lover of this fabulous plant. It’s nutty flavor combined with the char of a grill are simply fantastic. I am currently testing a theory that basil planted with it attracts ladybugs, always a plus in the garden.

Borage (Borago Officinalis) Borage is another officinalis that is an excellent dynamic accumulator. That is, its roots run deep into the soil to bring nutrients up to the plant. However, be careful with your placement as it has a tendency to spread quite rapidly, and must be maintained. On the plus side, those flowers that you need to trim to keep the seeds at bay are great in salads, and the leaves are used in salads in other areas of the world, though not so commonly here.

Comfrey ( symphytum officinale) What an accumulator! This plant has the most amazing use as a fertilizer! It roots can go up to ten feet below the surface, allowing it to get to nutrients that have not been to the surface in many years. Many people will grow comfrey just to cut the stem off and let it decompose around other vegetables where extra nutrients are needed. Others will make a comfrey tea from the decomposing leaves to pour over other garden plants. If you are into sustainable vegan fertilizing, this plant is a must have.

Dandelion (taraxicum Officinale) I am harvesting flower petals for tea this time of year, and I can tell you this poor plant has an awful reputation,  and a LONG history as a useful plant, from tea, to salad greens, to coffee, this plant can do it all!

Lemon balm ( Melissa officinalis) One of my favorite scents in the garden, and one I keep planted in areas around the patio, lemon balm needs to be controlled, as it spreads quite rapidly by rhizome. Melissa (in Greek means honey bee) attracts pollinators in great numbers, and is well worth putting in a controlled bed where it cannot spread.

Lovage (Levisticum officinale) While not technically listed as a dynamic accumulator, lovage has some great characteristics that make it valuable in the landscape. Keep in mind though, that at 4 to 8 feet, it needs to be at the back of the garden. It is a fabulous insect nectary, but needs to be cut down before it seeds out, which is an excellent time to dry some for seasoning broths during the winter months.

Marigold (Calendula Officinalis)Don’t confuse this with your common marigold that most people use as an insect repellant in the garden. The florets of this beautiful plant are used in salads and as a replacement for saffron in recipes. They are also used as a natural dye.

Rosemary (rosmarius officinalis) Ok, so this might be one of my favorite herbs (maybe because I am right on the edge of its northern range as a perennial, and it has been coming back every year.) I use it frequently in cooking, and it has a fabulous history for use as a food item. It is also one of those plants that requires very little care, put it in a bed with a good ground cover and harvest to your hearts content.

While there are plenty more I could choose from, these will get you started as I research a hefty list for more wonderful officinale’s for tidbits to help you out. My current research is learning about cynoglossum officinale or more commonly known as Houndstongue..I can’t wait to read about it!

I Got Poison What?

Poison Ivy, Poison oak, Poison Sumac…which ever one you get yourself into, if you are allergic to it, it is miserable! We have tons of the stuff here on the homestead. There is no possible way to keep up with it, unless I take all the trees down, and I am most definitely not doing that (if anything, I would plant more!), so we have to deal with getting ambushed by it on a regular basis.


As the old sayings go, “leaves of three, let them be” and “hairy rope, don’t be a dope”, are great little ditties to remember, but not a magic warding spell for sure! No matter how many times I chant them to myself and the heavens, somehow I always end up smack dab in the middle of poison “leaves” de jour.

Thankfully though, there are some wonderful natural remedies that can help take the itchy skitchy out of the encounter!

Virginia Creeper: It grows where the ivy’s grow, if you think you may have touched it grab some leaves from the vine and rub them on the area exposed. Just make sure it is leaves of FIVE first!

virginia creeper


Jewelweed: These leaves help neutralize as well. I have not tried this one but intend to next time I find it at the same time I get in a tussle with one of the poison vines.




Dish Soap: The most important step! Wash it off with a good grease cutting soap. This will remove most of the oil that has not penetrated the skin. This is one of things that you have to do as soon as humanly possible to minimize the effects of the poison oil.

Wash your clothes and any other item that may have come into contact with it.

Oatmeal: Grind some up and take a soothing oatmeal bath, or even a paste you can apply with a cotton ball. This is one of my favorites.

Baking Soda Paste: Dissolve a cup of baking soda in your bath or if a small enough area I like to put a  baking soda pack on it and leave it til dry. I will sometimes make a pack and just wrap it for a while.

Calamine lotion: A mixture of zinc oxide and ferric acid or iron, it makes a wonderful anti-itch lotion.

Cucumbers: make a paste from them and apply for a soothing effect.

Apple Cider vinegar: helps healing by breaking down the oils. It can also be cooling though it may sting at first.

Alcohol: It will help break up the oils, you can use either isopropyl or grain.

Aloe Vera: Aloe Vera is great once the spot has stopped oozing. It will speed up healing.

So as we prepare for our spring mushroom season,  prepare yourself with knowledge! I am!

Ok, so I have a Pet Opossum…


I know, I know…what an ugly creature, right? But his usefulness actually makes him much more handsome in my humble opinion. Yeah, Opossums can be a royal pain, and you have to take extra steps in property care and upkeep. Chickens have to be locked up at night. Seedlings have to be protected. but his value is worth the extra effort…Why?

The worst part of the year for opossums is spring in the garden.  They are quite good at digging up those nasty grubs that can set back a gardens root system, and that means I need to protect those seedlings. Not such a big deal when they have a good root system going. Oh, and their penchant for rodents, snails, and slugs can help my garden stay healthier too.

There are several reasons to let an opossum or two hang out around the homestead.

Did you know they can eat up to 5000 ticks a year? And that they have a natural immunity to pit viper bites, which means they can keep a property clean and free of those pesky slithering nuisances. They have been known to hunt down rodents, cockroaches, and snakes to keep them out of their territory. And it appears to work for skunks as well.  I have not had a stinky nocturnal visitor since I started allowing the opossums to hang around. And I don’t know about you, but midnight dog baths are not much fun for us.

Opossums are for the most part, naturally immune to rabies, and are actually 8 times LESS likely to carry rabies when compared to wild or feral dogs.

The opossum has 50 teeth to growl, run(albeit a little slower than most critters) belch, urinate and defecate. If all else fails, they roll over, get stiff, and bare their teeth as saliva forms around their mouth and a foul smelling liquid is secreted from their glands,and they can stay in this trance for up to 4 hours.

With their prehensile tails, they can not only hang from a branch for short times, and they can also carry grass and small brush with it as well.

They actually are much more intelligent in some areas than they are given credit for. They have an incredible memory for remembering where food is easy to come by, outscoring even rats and cats in mazes


So when trying to decide whether to remove an opossum from your property, evaluate its usefulness first.

My fellow actually has one of the nicest coats i have seen, but I put out just enough cat food that he can come in for a snack before I go through the nightly routine of sending him on his way. It’s not like I want to go out and pet him, or get him so comfortable he follows me everywhere. I already have a passel of dogs and cats for that!

I get tick removal without the noise of guineas, and underground protection from bugs and grubs in the garden ( the chickens get the creepy crawlies during the day) . I have no snake problem,which I have had issues with in the past. It was a win/win for me. See if it is a winning solution for your lifestyle.


Today we are going to …..BOUNCE?


Garden Of Eden, Arborvitae( Native American), Our Lymphatic System

Everyone by now knows that I Love Plants. I love reading about plants too. So when it comes to the Tree Of Life you just know I want to learn as much as possible about it. The Tree of Life is a common symbol in many religions, and a bunch of trees are also called trees of life, but in my current studies I am having fun with one of them. Did you know that the Lymphatic system is called the Tree Of Life of the body? I didn’t either, but ever since I read that, I have been intrigued. These are some of the names for the Lymphatic system.

Tree of Life

Our Immune System

Our Circulatory System

Our Purification system

The Sewer System of the Body

Now, as someone who is constantly moving around, whether I want to or not (anyone who has a labor intensive job can relate), one would think that I get a healthy amount of exercise, but as I found out, there is one thing I don’t do much on the farm, and it is the one thing that keeps the lymphatic system running at peak energy. I can throw 50 pound feed bags around with the best of them, so it isn’t weight lifting. Having to chase down a chicken that does not want to be caught helps, but I don’t have to run every day, nor do I necessarily want to burn the calories.  I recently found out that , unlike the cardiovascular system, which is pumped by the heart, the lymphatic system must have muscle movement to circulate through the body, drop off nutrients where needed, and pick up toxins to flush on the way back. How did I not know that? Maybe because I couldn’t stand to cut the poor frog up in biology while it’s little heart was still pumping. Either way, I missed that part in school.

So what is the one thing I can do to keep the lymphatic system pumping?

I can bounce. Specifically, Jumping Jacks are simply amazing at getting energy and everything else moving in the body. So simple, and yet a few jumping jacks an hour is enough to keep the flow moving, so if you are like me and just don’t have desire to drive (30) miles to an exercise gym, (the chickens will not approve, but hay! You might need to chase a cow down one day), and it will pay off. Bounce!

For those of you who have not managed to leave that desk job yet for life in the great outdoors, or just aren’t able, bouncing in your chair can help as well.

Who would have thought reading about a tree could give you a new view of an exercise routine resurrected from our youth? I sure didn’t!





Ok so I got lost for a while didn’t I… after fighting with my gardens for half the summer trying to get them to produce, I realized I was going to have to make some adjustments. So I did some research before starting on my greenhouse, and decided I was going to put an aquaponics system in it. I knew I had the experience to go big right off the start, so we went to planning. I will go into more depth in other posts, but I just had to show you our work in progress!


We wanted the ability to grow our food organically, and year round, and use as organic a fertilizing environment as we could get


.(PS…do you like the photo bombs?)


. The strawberries and lettuce are the most content after their move, although the dwarf citrus trees are doing quite well too.


So I went ahead and moved the plants I could still save inside, we are very excited that it is working so smoothly. We are using a bell siphon system which worked out really well for the setup. Due to our climate and what we think we can manage temperature wise throughout the year, we actually sank the tank down into the ground and will be growing crappie,  we will definitely let you know how that works out. We knew in our climate, that it was easier to heat the water than cool it, so we planned on keeping the water temperature as cool as possible. What would you most want to grow year round if you could?