Manage Your Homestead’s Food Supply Successfully

A LOT of just harvested garlic bulbs!

How do you process all this garlic? Dry some, crush some! Click for more info about Lehman’s super garlic press.

When you grow and raise a lot of food, one of the tricks to making it pay is managing the inventory. That means record keeping, not always my favorite thing but necessary if I am going to avoid waste.

Last month we harvested our garlic and it was phenomenal. I harvested 15o heads. That might seem like a lot but we are garlic lovers and I need enough to eat and to save for seed for next year. The biggest bulbs were pulled out immediately. The temptation is to eat those but that would leave me inferior seed. I put those heads away to plant in this month, and dry the rest to use throughout the year.

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Canning Makes It Easy To Handle Special Diets!

Here you can see my 'pineapple' zukes, left, and drink concentrates, center and right. I use Ball® and Kerr® jars.

Here you can see my ‘pineapple’ zukes, left, and drink concentrates, center and right. I use Ball® and Kerr® jars.

When I was growing up in Kent, Ohio my mother and grandmother canned tomatoes every Labor day. I hated it, I just wanted to be normal and buy tomatoes from the store in a real can not a jar that we said was a can. I didn’t want the bees swarming our hot house and I wanted to tell my friends of some fun activity that we did- not can tomatoes!

I smile when I think of that young girl that so desperately wanted to fit in and be cool. Now I have given up and embraced the country world I am in and love to can. I love the freedom I have when I pull a jar off the shelf and don’t need to read the fine print or call the company to make sure it won’t harm my family. I also love that I can look at recipes in canning cookbooks and not have to make any real dietary changes. Continue reading

Saffron Is The Pick of Fall’s Harvest

Carrots Love Tomatoes Book

Carrots Love Tomatoes Book

At Country Life, we know that many of you are gardeners–fearless gardeners to boot! And we know that many of you cook fearlessly too. How many of you have your own saffron patch that lets you do both?

Norma Storms, a reader from northeast Ohio does. She sent in some photos lately about her favorite fall crop: saffron! She’s got a small planting in her front yard, and all her subdivision neighbors just think that her crocus don’t know to bloom in the spring. They don’t realize the flowers are actually an edible crop! Throughout the year, Norma uses the saffron threads in meals. A member of a historical re-enactment group, she’s also used the saffron in banquet dishes for the group too. Continue reading

Figs Are Rich and Tasty Fall Fruit Experience

Tucked among the rich green leaves are tasty figs!

Tucked among the rich green leaves are tasty figs!

On a dewy morning in early spring some while back, we purchased a small fig tree in a gallon pot at our farmer’s market.

That tree is now soaring over seven feet tall and rewards us with an abundance of sweet chewy figs. The more we pick them the more the tree produces.

Figs continue ripening from early fall to a hard frost. Here in North Carolina that can be the beginning of October.  Our tree has gone through early light frost with only the outer figs being damaged, the fruit in the center toward the trunk were fine.

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Pumpkin Surprise At Barefoot Farm

We'll wait and see how well this little guy does!

We’ll wait and see how well this little guy does!

It’s been a tough year at Barefoot Farm for all things in the squash family. But things are starting to look up. Who knew gardening could be this much fun?

Apparently, when I added some compost in the herb garden this summer, I included a pumpkin seed. I discovered this one tiny pumpkin, hiding in the herbs. It’s small and, as I have no way of knowing what the variety is or whether it’s the result of random fertilization, I don’t know what to expect as far as edibility goes. It looks good and I’m assuming the best so now I need to decide what to do with it. Continue reading

Save Seeds, Plan Ahead: How B. Girard Does Garden 2014

Tasty fall harvest!

Tasty fall harvest!

Our seed order has been placed and major braggathon on the frugal me. This is the end of the fourth year of gardening for us, and in true form I have gone big already for year five!

And by go big I don’t mean that I am growing a garden that would feed the masses, since I don’t, and don’t intend to. This is about us, after all and about being frugal and sustainable, which I am learning are two things that are so completely intertwined in so many ways that they are practically impossible to separate. Continue reading

Plan Now To Plant For Fall: Southwest, South, Southeast

The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener Book

Learn how to grow your own food all year long. No matter where you live or what season it is (even winter), you can enjoy fresh produce right from your garden with this helpful book.

One of our bloggers, Kendra, has the luck to live in a very temperate zone (according to the USDA Plant Hardiness map). She’s currently working on harvesting her summer garden, and planning/planting her fall garden. When Country Life asked about her fall garden plans, she sent back a great comprehensive answer! See what she’s doing–and if you’re in Zones 6b or warmer, you may find it works for you too!
CL: What are you planning for your fall garden?
This year I’m going to focus on planting root crops throughout my fall garden. Carrots, onions, garlic, potatoes, turnips, and radishes are on my list of things to plant. I’ll also probably throw in some spinach as well. My children have asked for more peas, so as soon as our cucumbers are finished with these last few cukes hanging on the vines, I’ll pull them out and replant more Purple Podded peas for them.
CL: Have you planted fall crops before, or is this your first time? (If you’ve done it before, feel free to explain in detail! If it’s your first time, what are your concerns?)
Usually my garden sits pretty bare through the winter. This year I’m hoping to make the most of our growing space. Our winters are very mild here, so hopefully I won’t have too much trouble with stuff freezing. We’ll see!
All you need to know! Click to find out more about Root Cellaring at

All you need to know! Click to find out more about Root Cellaring at

CL: How will you preserve the crops that can be harvested before cold weather?
Since we don’t have a root cellar yet, I’ll most likely can whatever we don’t eat fresh. I’d also like to try storing root crops straight in the ground and using them as needed throughout the cold months. I’m a little afraid they might rot, or bugs will get to them before I do. If I have enough of a harvest to experiment with, I’ll try mulching them with straw and seeing how they do. One of these days we’ll have a proper root cellar!!

Kendra’s promised to stay in touch, and let us know how the ground storage and mulching program works. Stay tuned for updates here!

Know Your Zone! USDA Plant Hardiness Primer

Moving from one zone to another can be quite the shock. If that's you, embrace the change and garden accordingly.

Moving from one zone to another can be quite the shock. If you’ve changed zones recently, embrace the change and garden accordingly.

Where do you fall on the map? And do you know why it’s important?

It’s important because you can see the cold temperature ranges over time in your geographic area. Just this one piece of information can help you make several decisions, no matter if you’re running a small farm or an urban homestead. You can start to plan what to plant, and when to plant it.

When you review at the average temperatures over time for your zone at the National Climatic Data Center, you can then know even more, and plan further ahead: when to get your peeper chicks next spring, for instance, or the best time to cull livestock for the freezer. (Believe me, it’s not something you want to do on a steaming hot day.)

Want to put in a second-season garden? Depending on your hardiness zone, you may want to get started right away.

Gorgeous...and practical. And in stock now at or Lehman's in Kidron, OH. Supplies limited!

Gorgeous…and practical. And in stock NOW at or Lehman’s in Kidron, OH. Supplies limited!

Folks in the far Northwest, Great Lakes and Northeastern regions know that once summer’s heat starts to fade, the first frost won’t be too far behind. They’re planting now, and it’s sturdy stuff. Kale, in all its permutations, leads the pack, but you’ll see the odd broccoli and carrots too. Harvested at fingerling size, there’s nothing sweeter than a carrot that’s had a bit of frost.

Lucky folks living in the Southwest, South and Southeast regions have a little bit more time, and can often squeeze out some more delicate fall crops: lettuces, peas and radishes.

As we’re all building a simpler lifestyle, we should use all the resources at our disposal to do it efficiently. The Old Farmer’s Almanac is a great start, but if you want hard data, it’s out there. And it’s free for the taking from many federal, state and county government sources. Get digging–and get all the facts you need!