We grow a dense yet diverse number of vegetables, herbs, fruits, and flowers in a no-till organic system that we designed and built to replace the pre-existing lawn. We utilize drip irrigation, rain water catchment, and natural fertilizer sources to promote the long-term integrity of the soil and natural resources.
We employ Eisenia fetida (red wriggler) composting worms to turn food and garden waste into fertilizer for our gardens through vermicomposting. We have two different bin systems that we made, one of which is a 5-gallon bin that I take to events and workshops to educate folks on the importance of returning nutrients back to our soil.
Our two-bin system was built out of recycled, heat-treated wooden pallets and accommodates our limited space. We primarily use wood chips for our carbon material or dried leaves as available. This bin manages overflow waste that is too large or unsuitable for the worm bins.
We grow an on-going supply of microgreens for ourselves and others during the winter. We grow indoors under full-spectrum LED grow lights and experiment with different seed mixes. We harvest an average of 3 pounds of microgreens every 10-14 days.
On a small metal shelving system we start around 650 plants; all of our vegetables, herbs, and annual flowers for the season. We use heat mats for germination and LED full spectrum grow lights for the first 4-6 weeks until plants are ready to move outdoors for hardening off. We also use this system for year-round microgreens production.
On the south side of our house we built cold frames out of cinder block and some windows a friend gave us from a salvaged project some years back. In addition to what we start indoors, we are also able to grow and harden off many of our seasonal starter plants here as well.
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→ 2021 Farming Report
After studying a great deal about soil health, regenerative agriculture, and small farming we decided to take one full year to put it to practice and see just how possible it is to make a living at. On both leased farm land and our urban lot we grew over 2,000 lbs of food which we washed, packed, and distributed.
A large part of what interests me in small farming is the opportunities it lends to improving and building soil through the act of intentional farming. This image depicts the lethargic color of the soil at the start. We built up the health of the soil with mushroom compost, mycorrhizal inoculant, and lactic acid bacteria. In 2022 it was still rich with organic matter.
We sold our produce through a CSA where we provided a weekly bag of mixed vegetables and herbs to ten different families. While this was a great way to predict sales, we ended up having far more produce than interested people. We donated much of the excess to a local shelter.
Korean Natural Farming
Lactic Acid Bacteria
Lactic Acid Bacteria (LAB) in the garden improves nutrient uptake, plant health, disease resistance, and soil tilth. It is easy and extremely low cost to make. The final product is diluted (1:1000) and applied directly to the soil or plant stoma, either as a drench or foliar spray. I use it in combination with FPJ and WCA.
Fermented Plant Juice
Fermented Plant Juice (FPJ) is a process that extracts plant nutrients through fermentation. Massaging equal parts plant matter and brown sugar together kick starts a frenzy of naturally occuring bacteria to ferment the material into a dark juice that is then diluted (1:500) and applied to the roots or leaves of the plants.
Water Soluble Calcium
Water Soluble Calcium (WCA) is the simple process of using vinegar to extract the calcium out of eggshells for use in the garden. The finished product is diluted (1:1000) and applied as a foliar spray during the reproductive phase of the plants growing cycle.
We save seeds from any remarkable fruits we harvest - looking for the best flavors from the healthiest most productive plants. In early autumn I collect seed heads from flowers in our garden and elsewhere. I save a lot for us, share with friends, and donate to free seed banks.
Saving our homegrown foods for winter is a primary focus for me during the summer. I can, blanch, freeze, ferment, cook & freeze, and dehydrate depending on what it is I'm trying to save. Making and freezing soups is one of my favorite ways of preserving the incredible flavor of homegrown food.
Every season there's plenty of tomatoes to preserve. I mostly prefer to cook them into a soup or sauce to freeze, but I also like stewed canned tomatoes and "sundried" dehydrated. I freeze cherry tomatoes whole which are easy to throw onto a winter pizza for a sweet and fruity reminder of summer.
Sourdough starter, started with rye and built up with a local stoneground flour.
We make our yogurt with organic whole milk and an organic yogurt starter. We've made it with raw and pasteurized milk and like both equally.
Using raw milk we make a basic, but delicious cheese humbly known as "farmers cheese". It's like a dry ricotta. The cream in the raw milk gives it an exceptionally delightful flavor.
I make a slow-cooker bone broth that fuels us through winter and works as a base for the many soups I prep during the summer. I make it following the slow cooking of a whole chicken that we get through our small farm CSA collaborative.
We use lacto-fermentation as another way to preserve and enjoy the food we grow. And like everyone else who ferments we enjoy the added health benefits we get from it.
If you need a reason to plant a fruit tree, homemade jam is it. Fig, white peach, and blueberry jams are some of our favorite local fruits to preserve. Nothing beats it on homemade yogurt or cast-iron cornbread.
Any overripened fruits we end up with we turn into vinegar for later culinary use. It's an easy process that just requires time more than anything.
I like to dry herbs and spices, make tinctures, syrups, infusions, and teas from plants and materials we grow or source locally. We regularly keep dried culinary herbs, CBD tincture, and Elderberry syrup on hand.
We have three young Elderberry trees (Sambucus canadensis) on our property that are just starting to produce flowers. In the meantime we harvest from a friend's garden and make our syrup with raw honey and various herbs depending on our needs and the season. The trees provide a great habitat and food source for birds and insects.
Ghee is my preferred cooking oil of choice but I like to make rather than buy it. It's much more economic and I like being able to infuse it with CBD or other herbs. In Ayurveda its a Yogavahi, an agent that carries the medicinal properties of herbs into the dhatus (tissues) of the body.
Raw Honey Infusions
By infusing herbs from our garden in raw honey we are able to preserve the medicinal qualities of the herbs for future use. Using raw honey further adds to the medicinal quality of this preservation method. I mostly use this as a tea, but it can be used in any way you'd normally use honey as well.
Like most people with a chronic collection of dirt under their nails I have an affinity for the natural world - plants and animals, both wild and domesticated and spend a great deal of time invested in both. Together with my husband we maintain a small polyculture homestead in the mountains of Virginia; raising vegetables, fruits, herbs, flowers, quail, bees, and plenty of beauty and joy. We grow in collaboration with other ecologically-minded small growers in our area because I very much believe that it is diverse, collaborative small food systems that will lead to a bright and resilient future.
You can follow me at @email@example.com
→ Current garden projects:
- Setup new apiary
- Hatch and raise "free to forage" coturnix quail
- Increase vermicomposting capacity
- Plant 40' hugelkultur bed of blueberries
- Plant 15' hugelkultur bed of raspberries
- Transition wood-framed beds to perennial crops: asparagus, strawberries, herbs, etc
- Plant perennial native flowers along property margins
→ Current Personal passions and projects:
- Learning to play guitar
- Studying for HAM radio technician license test
- Beekeeping class
- (re)Learning Python
- Creating community and local food access within a local small farmer's collaborative
- Serving as VP of my local Extension Master Gardener unit
- Making art (mostly into acrylic on canvas rn)
- Practicing yoga
- Fermenting everything