Wow! I thought my son was playing some trick on me when he brought this worm in. I looked it over and as you can tell from the video and pictures, this is the real thing. It looks so strange moving about, curling itself around. Once we took some pictures and the video we let it go in the yard.
I'm sure we will never find another worm like this again. The funnest thing about it is the kids amazement. My oldest son was surprised that it lived so long to get that big. He couldn't, nor I, figure out how it tunneled through the ground with two heads. Do you think that it tried to go two different directions at once? I guess the strongest head would win but like my son said, that wouldn't leave much time to eat and such so that it could grow and live. I guess it will always be a mystery.
Speaking of amazing creatures the kids found, look what else they found just a few weeks ago. Yep, That's a Praying Mantis. We bought an egg case a couple of years ago but I didn't figure that any would survive the North Dakota winters. I was proved wrong. This seems like a pretty healthy praying mantis, it is quite large. We are praying that it is a female that will lay more eggs.
Such fascinating insects. I think of them as the lions of the garden. They are fierce predators eating all kinds of harmful pests. May this beautiful praying mantis leave a healthy egg case tucked somewhere safe in our garden. She and her relatives are always welcome on our farm!
What kind of interesting insects have you found in your garden?
Happy, healthy, clean living!
We are so grateful to be able to share fresh organically raised heirloom produce with our customers. It is truly a blessing. In doing so we pray that more people will learn about the importance of "clean" food, going non-GMO, and knowing where your food comes from. But it all began to provide our family with all that aforementioned good food, so we would know exactly what we are eating and what went into it. So our children can learn how to raise their own food and the difference between homegrown heirloom produce and commercially raised GMO counterfeit food. So far it looks like we have succeed (thank you LORD). Our kids love gardening and eating the vegetables. Heck, they don't even bother washing the dirt off. A few swipes of the hand is sufficient enough for them. Oh, it's great!
So with this comes canning, drying, freezing and fermenting. That is a lot of work but once again my kids love being a part of it and that helps tremendously. It takes a lot of food to feed this big ol' family!
The sweet peppers did not do the greatest this year but we had an explosion of hot pepper. My daughter just reminded me how I had said that I wanted a lot of hot peppers because we are about out of our red pepper flakes from the previous year. Oh I got it. We have over a gallon of ground red peppers. I think I will concentrate on sweet peppers next year!
After we get 150 plus quarts of purred tomatoes canned we start canning salsa, wings sauce, tomato paste, ketchup, or what ever new thing we find. We are always looking for new recipes. This year my daughter has really taken a liking to canning and has done all the tomatoes so far.
In addition to all the tomatoes we can beans, carrots, peppers and fruit. Also blanch and freeze greens, cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower. The kids picked about 6 gallons of wild plums and made plum preserves. They also picked bull-berries. They are cleaned and stored in the freezer so we can can them when all the other canning settles down. They are very good at identifying edible fruit and plants in the wild and it is one of their favorite pastimes. There was a time when almost everyone could do such a thing. I'm so grateful my children are learning those skills.
The onions and garlic have already been taken care of and are put away neatly on the shelves. However we still have to harvest the potatoes and carrots and beets. These can be harvested last because the frost isn't going to hurt the root. They store so well in the ground- at least until the ground freezes so we hold off on them while we get the other canning done.
This year we have started fermenting. OH. MY. GOSH. It is SO easy. Just cut up your choice of veggie, put it in a jar, cover it with filtered water and salt if you'd like, put the lid on a wait a week. And that is it! Now you have a jar of super healthy, probiotic filled veggies. One more skill that was almost lost. Fermenting food was an everyday thing for our ancestors. These probiotics are so good for a healthy gut and good digestion. But that is for another post.
So now you see why there was no September newsletter. But I know that you are the understanding type. Thank you and may you have a blessed fall!
Happy, healthy, clean living,
Most likely your great grandparents did it, maybe even you grandparents. They saved seeds. Why? Well there weren't as many options back then for one but more importantly they knew the value in it.
Saved seeds are not the same as purchased seeds. All seeds grow- well, except for the GMO terminator seeds that produce sterile offspring. You know just a little insurance that the farmers have to go to the big ag/chemical companies to buy their seed. Sorry side tracked, but I couldn't help it. Anyways, most seeds grow so what is the difference? Each seed has a genetic make up that helps determine how well it will grow, how much fruit it will produce, and how well it will cope with the pressures of the environment that it is in. Lets take a Rainbow tomato for example. All the seeds collected from a rainbow tomato will produce a rainbow tomato but there are slight differences in each plant. You can capitalize on this with just a little effort.
Did you have several plants that did better than the others? This is where it all begins. In a year of drought like the one we just had there are going to be some plants that do better than others. Some that tolerated the drought better. If you save seeds from these plants and plant them the following year then save seeds from the plants that tolerate less water that year and so on you will soon have a drought tolerant variety.
Maybe it isn't drought tolerance you are after. Perhaps you get plenty of rain where you are but your tomatoes are prone to blight. Then you would select those that are most tolerant to blight. And the same goes for any plant that you grow. Isn't that awesome! You do not need a seed company to plant a garden. Most seeds are very easy to harvest. As simple as letting the plant go to seeds, collecting the seed, then letting them dry and storing them. (I've included a mini seed saving guide below)
Some varieties take a little more but nothing that you can't handle. Lets start with tomatoes. If you slice open a tomato and take a look at the seeds you will see that they are surrounded by a gelatinous sack. We don't want this gelatinous sack but it is very easy to get rid of. First slice your tomatoes down the middle horizontally. Now squeeze the seeds into a small bowl. Do this with all the tomatoes you are wanting to save seeds from being sure not to mix the seeds of different varieties and label each kind. Next add a little water to the bowl and place it somewhere that you will not be able to smell it. It gets a little stinky but it is only for a few days. This is where we get rid of that gelatinous sack around the seeds. Leave the bowl with the added water to sit for about three days. It will ferment and grow a thin layer of mold on top. This is what would happen to the tomato if it were to be left outside. The tomato would rot freeing the seeds and then come spring they would sprout. Once they have grown the mold add a little more water then use your finger or spoon to swirl the contents around. Carefully pour out the floating contents. The fertile seeds will sink to the bottom. You may have to do this several times and you will loose some good seeds so be sure to account for that when you are determining how much to save.
Now all that is left to do is let the seeds dry-make sure they are completely dry, then place them in a plastic zip-lock bag or mini manila envelope and label with the variety and year. You did it and you are on your way to tomatoes that are perfectly accustomed to your growing conditions! Pretty easy right?
*Please not that you can only save seeds from open pollinated varieties. Hybrids will not produce a true to type seeds and may not even be fertile at all. I suggest using heirloom varieties.
Here's a little recap-video form:
Saving other seeds
Beans- let them fully mature on the plant then pick them, let them dry completely, take out the beans and store.
Cucumbers- let the cucumbers grow until they are overly large and turn yellow. Bring them inside and let sit for an additional two weeks. This give a higher fertile rate. Cucumbers general don't produce a lot of fertile seeds so save plenty of cucumbers. Once the two weeks are over scoop out the seeds and process the same as tomato seeds.
Peas- let them grow to full maturity then bring them into dry. Harvest the seeds from the pod then store.
Spinach- allow plant to go to seeds then wait for the seeds to mature and dry. Once it has turned brown pull off the seeds and let it dry completely then store.
Peppers- choose fully ripe peppers. Slice down the middle, extract the seeds then allow to dry before storing. If you are working with spicy peppers be sure to wear gloves or you will have burning hands.
Swiss chard- Much like spinach, allow seeds to turn brown before collecting then bring them in to finish drying before storing.
Squash- Allow the squash to grow until the skin is hard and can't be easily puncture with a finger nail, cut it open, extract the seeds, clean the flesh from them then allow to dry completely before storing.
Herbs- For most herbs is all you need to do is allow the plant to flower and go to seed, wait for the seed to turn brown then carefully remove the seed. Bring it inside and allow the seed to finish drying before storing.
Carrots- Carrots are biennials meaning they only go to seed every other year. That means they have to overwinter then come back up to produce seed. I have had plenty of carrots go to seed the first year which can be handy for the seed saver in zone three where carrots do not regularly overwinter. When the carrot does go to seed collect in the same way as herbs.
Onions- Onions are biennials as well but they don't usually have any problem overwintering. Just leave a few in the ground and the following year they will come up and bloom. Once they have bloomed and begin to dry it might be a good idea to put a paper bag over the bloom to catch the seeds. because they will start to fall while you are waiting for them to dry.
May this encourage you to start saving your seeds and help you grow many successful gardens!
Happy, healthy, clean living,
I'm so excited to finally be doing this project! It has been over a year in the making and now the beginning stages are done!
We would like to get bees. Better pollination rates for our garden and orchard as well as honey!. But I do not wantGMO honey. So that means I need to have enough flowers throughout the bees active season to feed them or they might go down the street to some GMO crop and bring that back into the hive. They will travel miles to collect food. It will also be great to be helping the declining population of bees and pollinators in general. They are so important to our food supply. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, bees alone are responsible for pollinating 1/3 of our food supply. A great reason for anyone, including you, to start a pollinator garden.
No, I am not counting on this little hillside to contain all of their food it is just another site to add to the gardens (including all the herb gardens) and flowers we already have. We are also making a pollinator border around our newest garden. It is important that we have something blooming throughout the entire season-from early spring to fall and that is where we need to do some work. There needs to be more early and late bloomers. We will be accomplishing this with perennial and annual flowers (this works great for our bouquets in theCSA baskets), trees and bushes, And on top of that they will have everything in the gardens (we're nearing two acres now with plans to turn the front yard into a perennial food forest).
Favorite Plants For Pollinators
We already grow everything with a *. A good start but we still have a ways to go. It can be tricky to coordinate blooms for each part of the season, which ones will grow in your climate, and if they are perennial or if they need to be re-planted every year. That is why I'm working on a reading list for this winter. Next spring I want to be prepared. Here is my list and why I chose each book.
In The Bee Friendly Garden you get instruction from both a garden designer and a bee expert. They both believe in organic gardening and apply this to their techniques and instruction. They also go into attracting other beneficial insects. We knowhow important that is too.
Then there is Pollinators of Native Plants. I really like this one because it goes into the importance of genetic diversity of native plants and their benefit to the bees and other pollinators. It is kind of like growing heirloom vegetables. You don't want to loose so many great traits to hybridization.
Pollinator Friendly Gardening takes things a step further and brings less talked about pollinators into the discussion such as ants, wasps and beetles. Although we want bees and honey we think these other pollinators are just as important.
100 Plants To Feed The Bees focuses more on native plants, trees and shrubs of the US. Each plants lists which pollinators will visit the plant and what kind of honey it will produce. It uses annuals, perennials, herbs, trees, and shrubs. I really like the variety as this is key to great garden design.
It took me, with the help of my two oldest, about a day and a half to get all the rocks in place and the steps formed. We aren't sure how we want to finish of the steps yet-another thing to research this winter.
There was one trouble spot. We knew about it before starting but I wasn't quite sure what to do with it. There was a cement something about halfway up the hill. We were not sure what it was. It didn't seem reasonable that it was anything for the house because of it's location. So after doing some digging and finding out the it didn't go very deep (at least on the edges) we decided that perhaps when the retaining wall to the right of the beds was poured they had extra cement they needed to get out of the cement truck and thus dumped it there. So we took a sledge hammer to it. Well, mostly my son. He loves stuff like that. We broke off the outside edges to find that the middle was quite deep and decided they filled in an old fence post hole. After taking off the edges it became something that I could work with, i.e. hide under the dirt and no longer have it in the way of my path. I really didn't want a cement slab in the middle of my path.
I've planted some Echinacea, Anise Hyssop starts, chive starts, fall crops of spinach, lettuce, basil , and cilantro, Sedum and Rock Rose along the edge and some wild flowers. Even though the perennial wildflowers won't have time to get much of any size this year, they will come back next year. It is a Non-gmo mix for pollinators. I just couldn't wait.
Things are starting to come up. The cooler weather has been perfect for the lettuce and spinach. Don't the little black flowers on the corner look cute. That was my daughter's idea.
Next year we will finish the steps and tackle the section you can see in the upper left of the picture with the plastic. The grass will be dead by then and I should have decided if I want to add a couple of fruit trees there or make more terraced beds. It would be nice to have the fruit trees close and would be a great entry into the perennial food forest we are planning for the front yard. They wouldn't shade the garden because that is the north side but they would provide some shade for the animals in that pasture. So many decisions. I have to see what my husband, who hauled home all these rocks from a job site that didn't want them (thank you!) thinks. I'm leaning towards the trees. Do you think I can convince him?
I hope this inspires you to start a pollinator garden. The bees do too. Or maybe you already have one. Please share your experiences and any tips. Thank you!
Happy, healthy, clean eating,
Cutworms and How to Control Them Organically
Cut worms (they are actually more like a caterpillar) can reek all sort of havoc on a garden. Most commonly they kill seedlings by chewing their way through the stem or just eating the entire top of the seedling off, leaving only a stem. A stem that will no longer grow. Sad.
We have had problems with cut worms in the past eating our freshly planted starts and our newly emerged seedlings. A simple fix we found to work well is to plant your seeds and starts in a ring of un-perforated drain tile pipe. We use 4" drain tile cut into rings about 4-5" tall. Make sure they are set into the ground about 1". At night, when the cut worms crawl out of the ground looking for something to eat, they run into these rings and find they are not edible and move on leaving your seedlings alone. Cut worms don't seem to bother carrots but they do like peas Cole crops and squash. Another way to battle them is with beneficial nematodes. They actually eat the cut worms. We find the rings to be more effective. Beneficial nematodes have a short life and it would require a whole lot of nematodes to cover all of our gardens. They have to be reapplied every year.
Besides eating seedlings, cutworms also like to chow down on mature plants. And that is what happened in one of our tunnels of cabbage this year. They ate some of the leaves for an appetizer then gorged themselves on the center or heads of the cabbage.
Thankfully we caught it in time and applied diatomaceous earth (DE) to kill the cutworms. DE comes from the fossils of diatoms, a type of hard shelled algae. The remains are ground into a fine powder and is used in multiple applications and it is approved by OMRI for use in organic farming.
Watch our video below to find out how we used it to stop the cutworms from eating our cabbage and how DE works.
No more cutworms in our cabbage. Oh, so looking forward to eating these beautiful cabbages!
Always check your local store first for DE but it can be difficult to find. You do not want the kind that they use in swimming pools. Try one of these if that is all you can find. I do use this brand when I can't get it locally. Like I said early earlier is just sprinkle it on with my hands or some panty hose, but is that seems too messy for you, and it is, you may like to try the duster.
I hope this helps you with any cut worm problems. May your garden be blessed.
Happy, healthy, clean eating,
We have been having so much fun in the greenhouse. We are so blessed and so grateful to have it! This is our first spring growing in it and everything has been going really well. I hope you enjoy the video! I've had a cold so please overlook all my sniffles.
*One clarification-We have had regular bak choi just not the baby version.
With the greenhouse doing so well, and multiple crops ready for harvest, I headed out to get some veggies for our dinner- stir fry. This is what I came back with: baby pak choi, spinach, Swiss chard, and onion trimmings. Dinner is going to be yummy!
Happy, healthy , clean eating!
Do you grow onions from seeds or do you use onions sets? Onions sets give you a jump start but for just a little more work you can grow onions from seed and greatly broaden the variety which you are able to grow.
At Rolling Hills Farm we always looks for heirloom varieties for our gardens. This year we are growing:
Stuttgarter- This is a medium sized yellow onion with a strong onion flavor. It produces well and stores well too. If you grow enough, and store them properly, they will last you until the following spring without going bad.
Alisa Craig- A large (it can get up to 5lbs) globe onion that was introduced in 1887. It came from the gardener of Marquis of Alisa at Culzean Castle in Maybole, South Ayrshire, Scotland. The gardener, David Murray, must have been pretty pleased with these great onions.
Southport White Globe- This little onion has quite the history. It was developed and grown in Southport Connecticut along the Mill river. From here, the then "onion capital", it was exported by the millions. These onions became very important during the Civil war when they were pickled and used to keep scurvy away. It was considered the "best white onion for market" by Seedsman Thomas Griswold.
Southport Purple Globe- As the name states, the red version of the Southport onion. It was released in 1873.
All of these onions are considered to be long day type onions. This means they need long days to grow properly. If you live in the north this is what you want. As you move south, you will want a short day variety. Always very important to consider when picking out which onions you are going to grow.
We also grow multiplier onions. Multiplier onions are planted in the fall and harvested in mid to late summer. You plant one onion in the fall and it grows into as much as 10 or 12 by harvest.
You can learn more about them and how we harvest them here.
Onions require a long growing season to reach full maturity so they are typically started in early February here in ND. It only takes a few weeks for them to become long and tangled. The onions in the picture below are 5 plus inches long. Time for a hair cut!
Trimming onions is very simple. All you need to do is cut them back to about 1 1/2 in tall. That's it and you can eat all the trimmings. Rinse them off and use them like chives. They go great in quiche. You might want to try this quiche recipe.
When you are all done with the hair cut your onions should look like they had a little mini lawn mower go over them. You will be amazed at how quickly they grow back. When they start to get long and tangled again give them another hair cut. You will want to to this several times. Each time you trim back the greens it forces the plants to put more energy into their roots and that is makes for more vigorous, and larger onions.
If you are a gardener and you haven't tried growing onions from seeds before then don't be afraid to try. If you don't have the space or time then sign up for our CSA and you can still enjoy heirloom onions varieties ( as well as all the other heirloom vegetables that we grow!).
Happy, healthy, clean eating,
These last few weeks the weather has been so pleasant! Feet of snow have melted. We had snow piles and drifts that were 8+ feet in height. Not anymore. Only a small remainder is left of the largest piles and drifts. That of course led to huge, muddy puddles that were the first destination of all the children playing outside at this house. Wet, muddy everything. Even so I'm so grateful for the beautiful weather and the chance for them to get out and get some sun and fresh air. It was much needed after the previous month of sub zero temperatures!
One thing that was discovered after all that snow melted, kale, spinach, and Swiss chard. The snow kept it nice and insulated all this time and there they were shining there happy green leaves at us in the dead of winter in a world of brown. What a glorious sight!
In the green house garden there are even new sprouts of spinach, coming up from the seed that was dropped from last years spinach. I love spinach. It is as good as a perennial when it so easily propagates itself like this. It is always one of the first things coming up in the garden. Oh, and I guess they say it is some kind of super food. Can't be underestimating the power of spinach! I highly recommend planting it. Always a great addition to soups, salads and quiche. And quiche is just what we made with all of our fresh picked greens. Such a blessing to have these fresh greens, nothing from the store compares!
Seeing as we are not big fans of pastry crust, I made a little different kind of crust. Think gluten-free bread bowl although not as thick. Use a 13 X 9 (3 quarts) casserole dish and pat the dough into place on the bottom and up the sides. Then place in the pre-heated oven and cook for 25 minutes or until slightly golden.
While the crust is cooking throw the peppers, mushrooms and onions in a frying pan and saute adding salt and pepper to taste. It is not necessary to precook the veggies but it really brings out the flavor. When you can start to smell the flavors add the greens. Stir a few times to combine then turn off the burner and set aside.
Crack eggs into a small mixing bowl and add milk, salt and pepper. Beat with a whisk until everything is combined. Now add the rice flour and whisk again until smooth. Set aside.
When the crust is done, place your tomatoes on a pan and broil them in the oven until they begin to blister and brown. Once they can be handled, arrange on the prepared crust.
Place the cooked veggies in the pan and spread into an even layer but do not compact. Sprinkle with cheese. Whisk the egg mixture one more time then carefully pour over veggies.
Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until set and beginning to brown. It may seem really juicy from all the veggies, just keep cooking it and it will firm up.
And there you have it, gluten free, veggie filled quiche, with fresh greens from our ND garden in February.
Happy, healthy, clean eating!
Veggie Filled Quiche with Gluten-free crust
*This crust is more bread-like than pastry like. My family loves it. We are not big on pie crust so this is what we use. It is kind of like a gluten free bread bowl crust.
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees
2 cups rice flour
4 Tbsp coconut flour
3 Tbsp ground psyllium husk
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup oil
For the filling
8 large eggs
4 Tbsp rice flour
2 cups chopped bell pepper
2 cups chopped mushrooms
1/2 cup chopped onion
5-6 cups chopped greens
Roma tomatoes (I used about 20 frozen tomatoes from the garden, that was good but I think more would be even better)
1 1/2 cups chopped or shredded cheese
Rosemary is one of my favorite herbs. It complements such a variety of meats. We use it on lamb, beef, duck, chicken and turkey. When I smell it I instantly think of warm, spongy, focacia. Mmmmm.
This year I'm working on growing enough rosemary to offer it with our CSA baskets and to sell at our plant sale. Today I had a few more starts that were ready for planting.
It is very important that they have a good root system. The plant can't grow well if it doesn't have enough roots to nourish the foliage. The roots on these plants will allow the plants to start growing as soon as they are planted. These little plants already have little branches growing out of the main stem. They should be a nice bushy little plant in no time.
This is was my favorite focaccia recipe before we went gluten free. We may not be able to have it any more but you should so this is for you!
4-4 1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup warm water (about 105 degrees f)
1 teaspoon active dry yeast (make sure it is non-gmo!), or about a cup of pre-made sour dough starter
1 cup warm water, same as above
2 teaspoon salt
1 Tbsp. olive oil
Fresh rosemary and salt
1. To make the sponge, combine 1/2 cup warm water, 1/2 cup flour, and yeast. Mix until smooth then cover and let sit at room temperature overnight. Or if you are like me, and just decided you want focaccia and don't want to wait until tomorrow, wait at least a couple of hours, This time of rest is to allow the sponge to ferment and is what gives the focaccia it's unique flavor. So you need to let it sit for at least a couple of hours.
2. After your sponge has set, gradually stir in 1 cup warm water. The yeast is more active when it is warm but not too hot or you will kill it so make sure it is just warm. Add the salt and enough of the remaining flour to cause the dough to pull away from the edge of the bowl when you mix it.
3.Now lightly flour your work-space with any leftover flour and knead the dough until it is thick, smooth and eastic-y. I know that's not a word but that is what you want so just go with it. When you are done place the dough in a bowl that has been lightly greased with olive oil. Cover and let the dough rise until it is doubled in size.
4. Pre-heat the oven to 475 degrees F. Most recipes will tell you to turn the dough out on a floured surface again but I usually skip that part. I can't wait for the sponge to rest over night so I definitely can't wait any longer now that I'm so close to the finished product. I never really notice much of a difference doing it the two different ways so out with that step for me. The next part is very important though. You must be very careful when shaping the dough. You want to keep as many of those little air bubbles that have formed in the dough, in the dough. Place the dough on a floured baking sheet or pizza stone. Gently pull and press with your finger tips until the dough is about 1 in thick and round in shape. Then carefully make indentions every 1 in or so.
6. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with coarse salt and fresh rosemary. Bake for 15- 20 minutes. Check after 7 min to make sure there aren't any giant bubbles forming. If so pop them with a sharp knife. When it is done cool on a wire rack.
Focaccia is best eaten warm so you don't have to wait to long here either. Mmmmm, enjoy that scrumptious focaccia with rosemary for us, oh, and yourself to of course.
Happy, healthy, clean eating!
What you are looking at is over 100 different varieties of fruits vegetable, cover crops and flowers! And this isn't even all of them. We order from several different companies as well as save our own seed. You are looking at the order from just one company.
Every year we study our favorite seed catalogs researching the best types and varieties of plants to grow in our climate and our unique growing conditions. Over the years we have found many reliable varieties that we continue to grow every year. We are very grateful to have found some real winners for this short growing season and our taste buds alike.
We have looked really hard for flavorful melons will be able to fully ripen in our short growing season. We are praying that the cantaloupe and watermelon we found this year will be the winning ticket. They do look very promising.
The fun begins! We will be spending the next few months starting plants for the garden and for our plant sale in June. This will be a great opportunity for everyone to come and meet us, tour the farm and get everything they need for a tasty garden and a beautiful yard. The sale is planned for June 4th. Please sign up for our mailing list to receive our monthly newsletter and you won't miss any updates or important happenings at Rolling Hills Farm.
Now you are free to go and dream about the overflowing baskets you will be receiving as a CSA member this season and all the delicious meals you will be making with them! Don't forget that when you sign-up and make your first payment before April 1st you will receive 10% off.
Happy, healthy, clean eating,
Hello, I'm Jaci. I love gardening and being outside in God's amazing creation. I'm passionate about whole foods and clean eating. I hope you enjoy my farm life adventures!