Tag Archives: local

Playing in the Dirt

I didn’t write my usual blog last week because I took a week off to do some planting, but so far this is all I have to show for it: mud from the knees down.

Mud from knees down

My husband and I own a small organic farm called Downstream Farm Organic Produce. I was focusing on planting our red okra, which we sell at Ozark Natural Foods later in the summer. As well as growing food for ONF and local restaurants, my husband and I produce about 50% of our food. We do this to have the freshest, highest quality foods, and I find digging in the soil to be a therapeutic activity.

We keep our gardening as simple as possible so we can have time to grow the volume that we do. We amend the soil with our compost and organic nutrient from Nitron Industries. We mulch heavily and water with soaker hoses on a rotation. We weed and remove bugs mostly by hand. Mostly, our success is because we focus varieties that grow well with few pests in this region.

As well as the red okra, I find that a wide variety of peppers grow with ease here along with tomatoes, especially the Arkansas Traveler. But we round out the selection with onions, garlic, cucumbers, carrots, greens, sweet potatoes, tomatillos, dry beans, basil, and many other herbs. High Mowing Seeds have had an excellent germination rate for us in general.

IMAG0648

My favorite gardening tool is actually this masonry trowel. I use it for mixing in nutrients when I set in plant starts, and it is great for weeding.

Even if you aren’t going to plant rows and rows of okra like me, plant a few herb or flowers. Do what you can to play in the dirt and enjoy its calming benefits.

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Refreshing and Soothing Chickweed

Nothing says spring as much as baby chicks hatching on the farm. Every year, I think they are even cuter than last year’s chicks. In addition to the organic chick feed at Ozark Natural Feeds, I make sure my chicks get some fresh foods too. I find worms and wild plants for them to eat. They are happy with clumps of grass and wild clover, but they particularly love chickweed.

Gabbie and her brood enjoying chickweed

Gabbie and her brood enjoying chickweed

Chickweed is a common herb to find in your yard or garden at this time of the year. Look around for it because you might love it as much as my chickens do. Chickweed has a taste that might remind you of spinach, and it is a great addition to salads. Chickweed is highly nutritious and is considered to be a rejuvenating spring tonic.

Chickweed

Chickweed

In addition to being a great addition to the diet, chickweed is a medicinal herb that is used for soothing skin and mucous membranes such as the respiratory, digestive and urinary tracts. A chickweed tea can be used for coughs and hoarseness. It is also a mild diuretic that might be useful for urinary irritation. Chickweed is most famous for it topical uses since it can speed wound healing, reduce itching, and cool inflamed skin. It is used for everything from burns and cuts to eczema and hemorrhoids.

You can use the fresh plant to make a poultice by simply crushing the leaves and stalks and applying them directly to the skin. Ideally, cover this herbal concoction with a clean cloth to hold it in place. If using dried chickweed, grind it until it is nearly a powder then add enough hot water to make a paste. You can also make a healing chickweed salve for use all year long. Just in a Pinch Recipes has two recipes for chickweed salve. Their Itchy Salve recipe looks great.

Grow Your Own

My husband and I own a minifarm, named Downstream Farm Organic Produce. We provide tomatillos and soon burgundy okra to Ozark Natural Foods and a local restaurant. But our main goal is to grow as much of our own food as we can. This year we are growing for ourselves onions, garlic, leeks, carrots, potatoes, collards, chard, cucumber, beets, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, sweet peppers, hot peppers, dried beans, blueberries, apples, and numerous herbs and flowers. We also raise our own chickens for eggs and meat, and my husband hunts and fishes. With a few of the foods we raise like onions, carrots, potatoes, and beans, some people might argue that these aren’t worth the effort to grow because it doesn’t cost much to buy them in the store. But growing our own food isn’t just about saving money. We know where our food came from and how it was grown. Overall, our efforts leave us with a sense of pride when we can look at our well-filled freezers and pantry at the end of the season.

Downstream Farm Organic Produce

Downstream Farm Organic Produce

Of course, very few people have the space and time to produce as much of their food as we do, but most of us can make small steps. Consider a small garden plot in your yard. I used to have a very shady yard, but I still managed to have herbs and strawberries, and leafy green veggies. A friend living in an apartment filled a small kid’s swimming pool with soil to grow some veggies. If you don’t even have a balcony, culinary herbs like parsley and thyme will grow well in a sunny window. Sprouting is another option for nearly any home as you don’t even need a sunny spot to grow a jar of sprouts any time of the year. Have alfalfa sprouts in just a few days following these simple directions (http://www.simplebites.net/how-to-grow-sprouts-at-home/). And you can experiment with many different sproutable seeds and blends that include: fenugreek, broccoli, radish, daikon, clover, lentils, and mung and other beans.

For flavor, nutrition, and satisfation, growing your own foods can’t be beat. It is not too late to get started on growing something for a fall harvest.