Annie Mama Dweeb

Annie M.

A Few Things I Learned From Home Farming This Year

We are almost at the end of my posts. It makes me slightly sad that my home farm posts are coming to an end so early in the summer. I still have lots of food growing – including honeydew and watermelons!

We had so much fun watching the plants grow from seeds to large plants to delicious vegetables! I am still floored at the bushiness of our tomato plants!  We are picking handfuls of tomatoes every single day. I am so glad Josh planted a variety of tomato plants – from sugary cherry tomatoes to yellow pear tomatoes to heritage ones. Having a variety of them makes them much more fun to eat (and pick).

A few things I learned:

  • Do you know how to tell when your corn is ready to be harvested? The raccoons knock the plants down and eat them!
  • Just because bugs didn’t eat your plants last year, does not mean you don’t have to take preventative steps this year. Many of my veggie plants suffered at the ravenous appetite of some “very hungry caterpillars.”
  • It is possible to over-water cucumbers.
  • The weather can render useless all your hard work.

These are all wonderful lessons that I will put into practice next year. And here I was thinking the deer was my most difficult pest! Despite these disappointments, we harvested buckets of tomatoes, peppers, and beans. And we were able to harvest about five ears of corn before that underhanded raccoon thief got to them.

Did you learn any lessons you will be putting into practice next year?

This series of home farm posts was part of me joining Triscuit and Better Homes and Gardens blogger home farming challenge. On August 15th, I will be asking for your votes so I can win the challenge. First place wins $1,000 and a Better Homes and Gardens farming tools set – I’d love to win, please vote on 8/15!


Annie M.

You Win Some, You Lose Some

When I planted my home farm, I had big dreams. With a huge plot of land as my home farm, I thought I would be harvesting bushels of produce, more than my family could ever eat! We planted a large variety of vegetables – carrots, squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, corn, okra, tomatillo, peas, green beans, kohlrabi, beets, broccoli, cauliflower and radishes – just to name a few.

This was my first venture into home farming, and it was a learning experience for me. I lost quite a few plants and will take this wisdom with me into next year when I plant my home farm again.

Weather is a variable out of my control, and it affected many of my plants. My cilantro bolted for the extremely high temperatures and I had to replant my cucumbers that died in the late frost. Bugs were another plant-killer. Caterpillars ate clear through all my broccoli and cauliflower leaves. I should have read the pesticide free tips from HomeFarming.com. Cat did and her plants grew big and healthy! At least our fence kept the deer out, so we had a fighting chance.

Despite my lack of carrots and onions, my home farm is bushing up nicely. Go on a walk with me through my home farm! I’ll show off how we are doing!

I was not kidding – we have loads of tomato plants! They are tall and thick too. We have all sorts of tomato plants – from cherry tomatoes to giant ones. I check on them daily, ready to pluck the first, juicy, red tomato I find! So far they are all still green. I can just taste the BLT now!

My tomatillos are almost ready to be harvested! You know a tomatillo is ready when the husk is paper thin and almost a brown color. Tomatillos are excellent in homemade salsa and other mexican dishes. I am so excited to try them!

My corn is almost ready too! Josh and I planted two different types of sweet corn in two areas of the home farm. We spaced the planting of the corn far enough apart hoping to prevent cross pollination during tasseling. Unfortunately, the first corn we planted took too long to shoot up and now they are at about the same stage of growth. I am sure they will still be sweet & tasty.

One thing a home farm is good for is improving your sense of humor! Volunteer squash plants surprise us every year. This year we have more than normal because we had a 4 year old and a 2 year old helping us plant the seeds, and they dropped a few along the way. I am anxious to see these bear fruit so I can know what they are!

I had a cute chuckle from this poor little zucchini! The fruit was smooshed under the vine, but it grew around it! I have to admit, I have never seen a crooked zucchini before!

And these are my favorites! I actually nabbed a photo of a bunch of beans together before the kids ate them all. Every time the kids go to the home farm with us, they pick a green bean and eat it. This leaves very few beans for me to actually harvest, but I don’t mind, since they are actually eating their veggies! Isn’t the purple one gorgeous? It is called ‘Royal Burgandy’. The outside has a slightly more velvety texture and it tastes a tiny bit sweeter than the green ones. It is the one the kids eat the most of, since it is so pretty and tastes better, so I was lucky to get one in the picture!

How is your home farm growing? What learning experiences happened this year to your plants?


Annie M.

Oven roasted kohlrabi, fresh from the home farm

My favorite time of day to go check on my home farm is early in the morning. The kids are still sleeping, the birds are chirping cheerily, and the grass is wet with fresh dew. Everything seems so new, so clean. Peacefully, I walk through the rows of my home farm. I giggle as I glance at what we are growing.

I do not know how to cook half of it!

Thankfully there are plenty of recipe ideas at homefarming.com.  It is my go-to resource, since not once have I purchased or prepared fennel, kohlrabi, cabbage, or tomatillos.  Below, I will share how I prepared the kohlrabi – and I bet you will love it!

When I took Lizzie and David out to see the home farm progress, they measured the success and learned the names of all the plants.

I am slightly disappointed with the lack of progress some plants are making – namely my broccoli, cauliflower and cilantro.  The cilantro already went to seed and the broccoli and cauliflower are not blossoming at all.

Our carrots are still itty bitty! Look how cute this one is in Lizzie’s hand! According to Home Farming, the carrots will probably take another month or so to mature. I cannot wait!

We found a kohlrabi bulb that was fully matured and picked it! The leaves are very large, and we discard them into our compost bin. Lizzie was ecstatic with her job of carrying this odd vegetable back to the house.

Once inside, I read that oven roasting Kohlrabi with seasoning salt and parmesan cheese is a popular way to prepare it.

Small slices cook faster! And we have some hungry kids

Toss the slices in olive oil and seasoning salt! Others suggested salt, pepper, paprika and garlic. This brand of seasoning salt has those ingredients and a few others in it.

Bake for 10-15 minutes at 450 degrees.  Take it out, turn the slices, sprinkle the parmesan cheese and bake for another 5 minutes.

My kids ate them up! I was thrilled because kohlrabi is an excellent source of vitamin C, dietary fiber and potassium.

Now I am dying for my other veggies to grow! I cannot wait to pick fresh green beans, cucumbers and tomatoes!


Annie M.

In Plot Update and Deer Control

Here we are in the beginning of June and my in-ground home farm is starting to really blossom (finally!). Since we endured a late frost, we lost a few plants we started from seeds, like my cucumbers and pepper plants. But we just bought some pepper plants and planted more cucumber seeds and now we are back in business!

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We live in the woods in Kansas and our biggest pest is the deer. We have photos of trampled plants with deer hooves next to it and I really want to eat my food, not just feed those animals. I went on HomeFarming.com and read some really creative and helpful tips from the Home Farming community. Some people suggested spraying the plants, others suggested tying old CDs/DVDs shiny side-out and hanging them up around the farm. Another suggestion was to plant really hot pepper plants around the outside. I liked the motion sense sprinkler idea too! That site is so very helpful, the community really joins together to provide support and tips.

Josh installed an electric fence around the outside of our home farm. It was easiest for us to do it that way because we already had the supplies from when we owned goats. So far it is working well, but only time will tell!

Here are some photos of our little sprouts! I am really getting excited about the cucumbers, tomatoes and sweet corn. I can’t wait for those to bloom and grow. I’m researching and learning how to use kohlrabi, anise, fennel and beets. Those are a few plants I have never grown before, nor have I ever prepared.

Cool beans!

Cool beans!

Tomatillo with flower buds

Tomatillo with flower buds

Sweet corn stagger planted

Sweet corn stagger planted

I learned a whole lot about food since I started to grow my own. I learned that not picking the arugula when it was small and young means it now tastes burnt. I also learned that some plants (like cucumbers) are a lot more “wimpy” when it comes to cold temps. Triscuit’s creation of the HomeFarming site and community is a huge help for beginners like me. Being able to use those experienced farmers as resources is priceless!

Would you like to take a walk with me through my home farm? Here I am on an early Sunday morning!

I will be back in two weeks! Hopefully by then I can show off a few teeny tiny tomatoes or peppers! I hope your home farms are sprouting and growing too. What are you growing? Are they bigger or doing better than mine?


Annie M.

Helpful Home Farming Tools

Here it is, mid-May and my home farm is starting to sprout little baby plants! I do believe that in-ground home farming is the most difficult – but we also made it the most difficult by planting so much! Just check out the photo below, do you think we went a little overboard?

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I totally suggest that people keep it simple. Plant a small, manageable home farm, especially if you are embarking on this adventure for the first time. HomeFarming.com has some really valuable resources – how to plan your plot and experts to answer questions.  My favorite feature of the Home Farming site is the social feature. I love chatting with other home farmers about our progress and frustrations. Plus, you can connect your Facebook account to this site so you can share your progress with your close circle that way!

home-farm2

Despite the late season frost my plants endured recently, they are growing! I am so excited and looking forward to harvesting a bountiful crop in late summer! We planted a very wide variety of things this year, but I think I am most looking forward to fresh salad! We have arugula, kale, lots of lettuces, cucumbers and tomatoes!

home-farm3

Last year we learned our lesson. We purchased some products this year that have really made life and home farming much easier. The first one is Weed Block. It is a black tarp that keeps random weed seeds from blowing and planting themselves near my seeds.  As you can see, our plants are growing through the holes we cut for them, it makes weeding so much easier!

The other product we adore right now is the leaker hose. I can just turn on the hose and let it spray a fine mist on my entire home farm, without me having to go down with a hose and do it myself.

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A perfect plant for children and beginners is the radish.  It flowers so quickly that it gives you a quick return on your investment of hard work. The leaves bloom very full too. Our radish leaves last year were huge compared to our other plants. That being said, I don’t like to eat radishes one bit. I’ll be giving away quite a bit of radishes at church this year!

Here is another fun video! I take you through a walk in my home farm, let you see my buds up close and share my thoughts about the Deer situation.

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Annie M.

Setting Seeds for a Home Farm

Josh’s dream is coming true! I am 100% on board with his home farm and eager to get in there and help him make it grow.  He has put countless hours of planning and research into home farming – namely of the square foot variety – and when I shared with him that I wanted to learn he couldn’t wait to get out there and show me.

I am joining two other wonderful bloggers as we participate in the Triscuit and Better Homes & Gardens’ Home Farming Challenge. Cat from 3 Kids and Us is doing a raised bed, Culinary Concoctions by Peabody is doing container gardening, and I will dig into the earth as I plant an in-ground plot.  All three of us will be posting from now until August about our home farms – the sore backs, the cute buds and the frustrations – on our individual blogs and here on Better Homes & Gardens.

Here we are, at the beginning of home farming season!  We planted the hardy root plants in the ground and started the more wussy – err, “not frost tolerant” – plants indoors in small containers until all dangers of frost have past.  We have started planting all our plants outdoors and I can’t wait to see them grow! (Good bye frost, you will not be missed)

While some people start their home farms with a hoe or tiller, we have a tractor. We live on 20 acres of land, so we are going to plant almost every kind of plant we can and share our experiences (and hopefully success stories) with you.  Josh and David mowed a plot that is roughly 100 ft x 50 ft.  Then, Josh used a rototiller on a spot that is 1/4 of the plot for our root plants.


Since Josh is all about the square foot gardening, he took some scrap wood from his shop and constructed 1ftx1ft squares to divide up our ground plot.  Then, we took a magic marker and wrote on the board what we planted in that spot.

I got my hands into the dirt and planted the seeds! This is the first time I have ever planted anything. Josh is the farmer but I am quickly learning.

I started out with carrot seeds, and dang those are some small seeds! It was really difficult to keep only 2 seeds from falling into each little hole. I have a feeling the plots I planted will be a tad overgrown compared to the ones Josh planted. He is so much more careful.

I will admit, Josh got a lot more seeds planted than I did. We both agreed that since Josh is more particular about home farming, as soon as the kids needed one of us, it would be me that attended to them.


Lucy watched me plant the carrots. I only got one square foot of carrots planted before she announced she was not having fun anymore. When it was cooler out we came back out and she let me get another 5 minutes of planting done. Josh sweetly took her inside so I could plant at least 5 more square feet.

While I planted, Lizzie and David had their tiny watering pots out and watered my new seeds. Lizzie loved watering them more than David did.  He got distracted by a long stick and dug into the dirt with it.

By the end of the day we finally planted seeds in 1/4 of our plot.  We have carrots, lots of varieties of lettuce, cabbage, and different varieties of onions in the ground.  Josh has many more plants in containers indoors and has even started a few herbs for an herb farm for me.

I can’t wait to see them start to sprout! I hope I can keep them weeded and watered. Josh bought some hoses that should make watering easier for me. I have a short video I made introducing you to our plot, sharing a few tips and my own thoughts on home farming:



Tips & Thoughts I share in the video

We are stagger planting: This means we are not putting all our seeds in the ground on the same week. We will plant a few carrots this week and a few more next week. This way they will grow in batches and we can harvest them for many more weeks.

I hate pre-planning: I’m not very good at hashing out minute details to plans.  So having Josh sit down with me and go over exactly where each plant would be and how many to put in each little square foot plot just frustrated me. I want to just put the seeds in the ground and watch them grow. This will be a good learning experience for me. I’m going out of my comfort zone and planning out the small details.

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