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From The Farm Hop – August 28, 2015

Wow, where did August go?  The summer is moving a long quickly, not much longer and we should start seeing cooling temps around our place and the arrival of fall!

Friday means it’s time again for the From the Farm Hop.  Enjoy!!

 

It’s time for another round of From The Farm where we love to see your ideas on how to garden, homestead, or any DIY tips and tricks. Last Week’s Top 3 Favorites, as chosen by YOU:

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Monday Harvest Report – August 24, 2015

We had a hot and smoky week!  Temps all week were in the low 90’s and we have had a lot of smoke in the valley that, believe it or not, has been coming from all the fires in Washington and Idaho.  We should have some wind early this week that will clear all the smoke out!

In case you missed out here were our best 3 traffic posts for last week be sure to click though and read these popular posts!
1.  Curing and Storing Onions – It’s onion time, we pulled our Candy onions last week and the Copra’s will be coming out soon as well!
2.  Growing a year round garden – This was a guest post I wrote about a year ago that had a lot of visitors this week.
3.  Picking the Perfect Melon – Our guide to picking your melons at just the right time was also a hot post last week.

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We had a fantastic harvest week. 47 total pounds for the week including the first harvests from the borrowed garden.  Our first sweet corn for the year was AWESOME!!!

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I’m so glad we have this extra space that Leo lets us borrow so that we have room for lots of sweet corn.  We picked 22 ears last week and that is only the beginning!!  We have had corn for almost every meal this week.

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The big star from the home garden was the zucchini again this week.  These are 3 of the 6 we picked this week.  Our freezer is full so what ever we get for the rest of the year will be eaten fresh or given to friends and neighbors!

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More herbs on Saturday.  The basil plants are thriving right now and giving us tons of leaves.  Most of these are being dried for the winter right now, but we are eating some fresh as well.

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The berries are coming in full force.  We had to pick the raspberries every other day and the strawberries had two picking this size during the week.

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Of course we are still digging potatoes here at the home garden.  These come from our Mid May planting.  We have harvested a total of about 20 pounds from this patch and we are not quite half way through it.

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And this was a very typical harvest basket for this week.  You can see the tomatoes are finally starting to come on strong.  We harvested almost 7 pounds this week, mostly the smaller Early Girl and Sun Sugar tomatoes.  But next week we will finally start harvesting the bigger tomatoes!  Also the cucumbers are fruiting like crazy.  I actually have enough in the fridge that I’m going to make my first batch of Refrigerator Pickles this afternoon!!  And the beans are also doing very well, we have a big bag in the fridge now that we have been eating from, but we have built up enough now that I think I can freeze a batch or two!  We love those purple beans, they are new to us this year and are making for a fun variety!

The totals for this week are as follows:
Zucchini – 12 lbs
Cucumbers – 6.25 lbs
Tomatoes – 6.75 lbs
Raspberries – 1.50 lbs
Beans – 1.70 lbs
Strawberries – 3 lbs
Onions – .75 lbs
Herbs – .25 lbs
Potatoes – 4.25 lbs
Home Garden total – 36.45 lbs

Borrowed Garden:
Corn – 11 lbs

Weekly total is 47.45 lbs and that brings our annual total between the two garden spaces to 292.85 lbs!

Don’t forget that we are running a special on our video courses for the rest of the month.  Till August 31st we are offering our courses 2 for 1.  If you buy our Year Round Gardening Course for the discounted price of $25 you will get your choice of either our Seed Starting course or our PVC Drip Irrigation course for free!

YRG August 2 4 1

Here’s how it works.  Follow the link above and buy the Year Round Gardening course using the coupon code SA-241-082015.  Once you have bought that course I will send you a message using the Udemy.com messaging system and you can tell me which of the other two courses you would like.  I will then send you a coupon to get that course for FREE!!

 

I will be sharing this post on several blog hops this week, including the following:

The Monday Harvest Report
Good Morning Monday
Misadventure Monday
The Tuesday Garden Party

From the Farm Hop – August 21, 2015

It’s time for another round of From The Farm where we love to see your ideas on how to garden, homestead, or any DIY tips and tricks. Last Week’s Top 3 Favorites, as chosen by YOU:

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Curing and Storing Onions for 10 months or more!

Curing and Storing Onions

Onions are an indispensable garden crop for our kitchen. Curing and storing onions correctly will assure you have this garden goody available all year long! Yep, that’s right! If you grow the right onion and then cure and store it correctly you can get your onions to last up to 12 months.

Curing and Storing Onions old

Here’s proof. These are our last two Copra onions. They are looking a little ragged but are still use-able. The two onions at the top are freshly harvested. This picture was taken August 15th, the same day we harvested our first onions for the year! But even on years where they don’t last till the next harvest, they can still last well into the summer when you will have green onions to harvest. Because of this it has been years since we’ve bought an onion!!

So how can you get your onions to store up to 12 months? Just follow these 4 steps.

  1. Choose the right onion.
  2. Harvest at the right time.
  3. Cure your onions for at least 3 weeks.
  4. Store in a cold, dark, dry place!

So let’s talk about each step.

1. Choosing the right onion.

There are two types of onions, mild and pungent.
Mild onions are usually larger and sweeter. They are often used raw and are perfect on salads, burgers, and even as onion rings. But mild onions are not good storers and usually only last a couple of months in storage. Examples of mild onions include Spanish, Bermuda, and Vidalid.

Pungent onions are always smaller and are usually used for cooking. The same strong smelling compound that makes your eyes water when you cut them is responsible for pungent onions long storage capacity. Pungent onion varieties include Copra, Candy, super star and red Tropea.

Curing and Storing Onions copra

So if you want to have long storing onions grow pungent varieties. My suggestion is Copra! We love Copra onions and they are the longest storing onion I know of! Copras are advertised to last 10 months or more and they live up to the advertising! If stored correctly we have had them last a year.

2. Harvest at the right time.

As mid summer approaches your onions will start to “bulb” up. When the tops start to flop over that indicates the onions have finished growing and are moving into their final maturing stage. Once the tops start to yellow and wither you should stop watering the plants for a week.

Curing and Storing Onions Drying
On a dry sunny day dig up the bulbs (be sure to dig them out, do not pull out by the tops as this can damage the bulbs). If there is no chance of rain or frost you can leave you onions lying in the garden to dry for a day or two. Otherwise bring the bulbs into a protected area like a covered porch or garage. I place all my onions on a screen I built just for this purpose in my garage.

3. Cure your onions for at least 3 weeks.

Now here’s the key. Let your onions sit and dry for at least 3 weeks and up to 4 weeks! Patience and a nice airy spot are the key! You know your onions are cured when the necks (where the tops attach to the bulb) are dry and tight and the outer layers of skin are dry, papery and rustling, and the tops have withered and dried completely.

Curing and Storing Onions trimmed

Once your onions are cured trim off the roots with a pair of scissors and brush off any dirt. You can remove the top one or two layers of dried skin to give you a nice clean looking Onion. If you are planning on braiding your onions or tying them to a string then leave the tops on. If not then you should cut the tops off to about 1 inch. This is a good chance to see if the tops have really dried. If there is still moisture in the tops then you should not store that onion, put it in the fridge and use it up soon.

Now go through all you onions and remove any that have bruises damage or rot. Again use these up quickly. I also like to sort my onions by size. Over the years I have found that smaller onions store the longest. So I put the smaller onions in one bag and the larger in another and use the larger ones first!

4. Store in a cold, dry, dark place.

We like to store our onions in and mesh bag and most of the year they hang on a nail in our garage. Keeping them out of direct light or even better in the dark also helps them last longer.

Onions should be stored in temperatures between 35 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit (2 to 10 Celsius). The optimal storage is 35 to 40. But be sure to protect them from freezing, if they freeze and then thaw they will start to rot.

If you only have a few onions a fridge isn’t a bad option. But if you have 50 or more then you need to find a cool spot. In the winter our garage is perfect, but its too hot in the fall and spring.  We end up putting them in a cool dark room in the basement for the fall.  Then we put them in the garage all winter.   If there are any left in the spring we put them in the fridge till they are gone.

Curing and Storing Onions Mesh

If your onions start growing roots then where you are storing them is too humid. If the onions start to sprout then it is too warm. In either case you need to use up the onions quickly or you could chop them up and put them in the freezer.

By following these simple steps you can easily get pungent varieties of onions to last 10 or more months filling your cooking with tons of home grow flavor all year long!!!

Monday Harvest Report – August 17, 2015

We had a great harvest week and a great week on the blog as well.  Some of our posts were very popular so I thought I’d start a new feature this week and highlight our 3 top posts . Follow the links to see what everyone is so excited about!

1.  Building a Grape Arbor – This one was a fresh post from this week about last weekends big project!

2.  PVC Drip Irrigation – This one has been our most popular post of the year and even spawned a video course!

3.  Canning Pickled Beets – It’s that time of year and a lot of folks checked out our beet recipe!

So anyways that’s our top 3 posts for last week!  Be sure to check out this weeks special on our video courses at the bottom of this post!

Now on to this weeks harvest report!

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The strawberries are going like crazy!!  We love this time of year for strawberries.  The summer sun makes them so sweet!  We ended up with 3.5 pounds this week!!

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This was a very typical harvest for the week.  The zucchini was the star of the week!  9 pounds which is a ton of zucchini, way more than we can eat, so we froze quite a bit of it and gave some away.  The warm weather crops are really starting to mature this week, you can see the first picking of string beans and the first big picking of cucumbers!

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Sun Sugar tomatoes are still our only dependable tomato.  Our late planting put us so far behind this year.  I’m worried we are not going to have enough “big” tomatoes to meet our canning needs this year!

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The raspberries are finally kicking in and we have pickings worth weighing.  We ended up with a little less than a pound this week.

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This basket was part of Saturdays harvest.  More beans and cucumbers and 5 pounds of potatoes for our Monday night dinner.  We also picked a bunch more berries and tomatoes but I figured you’d seen enough for one week!  :)

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Here’s a beautiful head of Summer Crisp lettuce.  I only got a few heads in this year (again that dang May rain).  So I will only have a couple more heads like this.

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I promise we planted more herbs than just basil and chamomile, but they seem to be the only ones ready for picking.  We have racks of basil drying all over the house!!

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I also harvested about half of our onions.  This variety is Candy and wow did they do well this year!  Holy cow that’s a lot of onions.  It’s the same amount we always plant but they did really well this year, with a lot of very big bulbs!  These will sit on this screen in the garage for a couple of weeks to cure.  About the time they are cured the Copra onions will be ready to harvest and bring in, so the garage is going to smell like onions for a while!!  I will wait until these are cured before I weigh them and add them to our totals.

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This was a fun discovery.  As I was harvesting the onions I came across these.  Any one have any idea what they are?  I’m assuming they are some kind of bunching onion that got in with our starts by mistake.  These all came from one clump in the middle of the onion patch.

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I also got all of the fall Cole crops planted Saturday.  These were starts I grew myself.  I put in 5 kale plants and 16 broccoli (3 different varieties).  These won’t be ready for harvest till about November 1st and will get a hoop house a little later in the season.

Here’s this weeks totals:
Tomatoes – 2 lbs
Raspberries – .75 lbs
Strawberries – 3.50 lbs
Zucchini – 9 lbs
Cucumbers – 3.75 lbs
Potatoes – 5.25 lbs
Lettuce – .75 lbs
Herbs – .25 lbs
Beans – .83 lbs
Total – 26.08 lbs

Our annual total is now 245.40 pounds!!

I mentioned earlier that we are running a special on our video courses for the rest of the month.  Till August 31st we are offering our courses 2 for 1.  If you buy our Year Round Gardening Course for the discounted price of $25 you will get your choice of either our Seed Starting course or our PVC Drip Irrigation course for free!

YRG August 2 4 1

Here’s how it works.  Follow the link above and buy the Year Round Gardening course using the coupon code SA-241-082015.  Once you have bought that course I will send you a message using the Udemy.com messaging system and you can tell me which of the other two courses you would like.  I will then send you a coupon to get that course for FREE!!

I will be sharing this post on several blog hops this week, including the following:

The Monday Harvest Report
Good Morning Monday
Misadventure Monday
The Tuesday Garden Party

 

From The Farm Hop – August 14, 2015

Holy Cow!! Where is this summer going.  It’s mid August already!  Enjoy this weeks Hop!

 

It’s time for another round of From The Farm where we love to see your ideas on how to garden, homestead, or any DIY tips and tricks. Last Week’s Top 5 Favorites, as chosen by YOU:

Congratulations! Grab your button and display it on your blog!

 

   

			
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Warmly,Your From the Farm Blog Hop Co-Hosts: The Homesteading Hippy | The Homestead Lady | Once Upon A Time in A Bed of Wildflowers | Stony Acres

 

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Building a Grape Arbor

Building a Grape Arbor title

Building a grape arbor has been on our to do list for years!  Back almost 10 years ago we discovered this cool little public garden that is sponsored by one of our local water companies.  The gardens are all based on water conservation and as the gardens have matured over the years it has become one of our favorite places to visit.  One area of the garden features a tunnel about 10 feet long that is covered in grape vines and in August the vines are loaded with grapes.  Valerie fell in love with the idea of having a grape tunnel in our yard.  As soon as we moved into our new place 2 years ago, she picked out the spot for this arbor and even ordered and planted the grapes, BEFORE we had the arbor in place.  No pressure for me now, right!! :)

Well the grapes plants are starting to take off and I couldn’t put it off any longer, so a couple of weeks ago I worked up some plans and bought the supplies.  Building this arbor was actually quite simple and I had a blast doing it.  Because of the materials we used it ended up being a little more expensive that we had expected but as you can see the finished product is well worth the $200 we spent on it.

Here’s a quick tutorial on building a grape arbor.

Building a Grape Arbor front

First lets start off with the dimensions.  The arbor is 6 1/2 feet tall, 43 inches wide and 6 feet long.  Those dimensions are from the outsides of the the 4 corner posts, so the path way between the arbor is 36 inches wide.

We chose to build this out of Redwood, which is a big part of the reason it was a littler pricier than we first thought it would be.  The cheapest wood to uses would be pine or Douglas fir, but both of those would not last nearly as long.  Other woods you could use would be cedar, or a pressure treated lumber.  We like the look of Redwood over cedar and because there will be food growing on the arbor we thought it wasn’t the best idea to use lumber treated with chemicals.  You will also notice that we didn’t stain the wood for the same reason.  Eventually the Redwood will weather to a nice gray color.

Here’s the shopping list:
6 – 4 x 4 – 8 foot posts
8 – 2 x 4 – 8 foot boards
8 joist hangers
8 L brackets
4 – tie plates
4 – 80 pound bags of cement
1 box 3 1/2 inch deck screws
1 box 1 1/4 inch deck screws

 

The building steps are pretty simple.

1.  Dig 4 18 inch deep holes (don’t forget to call and have your utility companies come out and mark any lines).  The center of the holes needs to be right where the center of your posts will be.

2.  Put 4 posts in the holes.  Level all the posts, assure they are at the same height (on top) by marking each post with an line and running a level string between each post.  (This could also be accomplished with a laser level)

3.  Also be sure the posts are square with each other and in the correct spots.  We did this by building a quick temporary frame using clamps and some of the 2 x 4’s.  Make sure the frame is square and that the inside edge of the frame measures the same as the outside dimensions of your arbor.

Building a Grape Arbor Posts

4.  Once you are sure that the posts are in the right spots, square and level, you can fill the post holes with cement.  We chose to use the bagged cement that you mix with water yourself.  The cost of each of these bags is only $2.65 and you need 4.  You just premix each bag with about 3/4 gallon of water in a wheel barrow and then quickly shovel the cement into the hole.  There are post cements available that you can put in the hole dry and then add water.  These are much easier to use but are about 4 times as expenses (you need 2 bags for each hole and each bag is about twice as much).  So you can chose based on your budget.

Building a Grape Arbor dirt

5.  Once the posts holes are full (be sure to only fill to about 3 inches from the top of the hole so there is a little space to put some decorative gravel or mulch on top of the cement to cover it up or in our case dirt so the grass will grow back.) check the posts once again to be sure they are still level and square.

6.  Give the posts 24 hours for the cement to set before you do anything else.

7.  Now you just need to put things together.

Building a Grape Arbor tie brackes

8.  I secured the top 4 x 4 posts to the cemented posts using these tie brackets.  You simply nail them to the vertical posts first and then use some of the 3 1/2 inch deck screws to attach the plate to the top post.  I let each post hang over the ends by 12 inches.

Building a Grape Arbor joist hangers

9.  Next cut 4 roughly 36 inch boards from some of the 2 x 4’s.  These will be the ladder rungs that stretch across the top of the center of the structure.  These boards are held in place using joist hangers like I show in this pictures.  If your structure isn’t quite square then each board may be a slightly different length, so measure each spot before cutting your board.  Go a head and put these 4 boards up.  Put the joist hangers up using some 3 1/2 inch screws.  Then secure the boards to the hangers using some of the 1 1/4 inch screws.

Building a Grape Arbor top boards

10.  Next jump on your table saw and rip 4 of the 2 x 4’s exactly in 1/2.  This will leave you with 8 1 3/4 inch square boards. 3 of these will go on the top as decorative boards (the will also help support the grape vines as they grow over the top).  Secure these boards to the 2 x 4’x using the 3 1/2 inch deck screws.

Building a Grape Arbor l brackets

11.  4 of the remaining 1 3/4 inch boards will be come the top and bottom supports for the sides.  They will need to be cut down to roughly 65 inches (be sure to measure each one before you cut as each may be a little different size if your side posts happen to be out of square).  These posts are then attached using L brackets.

Building a Grape Arbor toe nail

12.  For added strength you can add a 3 1/2 inch deck screw to the top of each side board by “toe nailing” it in.  Be sure to pre drill the holes.

13.  Now you just need to add the lattices to the sides.  I built these using my table saw again.  I ripped 4, 3/4 inch strips out of the remaining 2 x 4’s and then ripped each of those strips in 1/2 again.  This gives you 16 3/4 inch square strips of lumber.  Also take the remaining 1 3/4 inch board and rip it into 4 3/4 inch strips.  Cut all of these strips to 72 inches long.

Building a Grape Arbor frame

14.  Now install the lattice starting with the vertical boards using the 1 1/4 inch deck screws.  You want to attach two boards at each end to complete the frame.  These end boards should be attached to the horizontal side boards and also you should attach them to the vertical posts as well.  Then space out 4 more boards at what ever distance between you think looks good (I chose to space them 13 inches apart).  Any time you are working with these 3/4 inch strips it is a good idea to pre-drill your holes using a 1/8 inch counter sink bit.  Pre drilling assures that when you put the screws in that the wood won’t split.

Building a Grape Arbor deck screw

15.  The horizontal boards are also spaced 13 inches too so you have nice even squares.  There are 4 horizontal boards and they are attached at each junction using 1 1/4 inch screws.  You may need to trim each of these boards to length again depending on how square your side posts ended up.

Building a Grape Arbor grapes

16.  Then plant a couple of grape plants (or in our case simply chose the vines you want and attach them to the arbor).

A couple of other things to keep in mind when building a grape arbor:

1.  You can tweak the size to fit your needs, the dimensions I used fit our space, you can adjust to fit yours.

2.  Don’t plant to many grapes.  For an arbor this size you probably only need one plant for each side.  Over the next 3 or 4 years you will train one or maybe two “trunks” from each grape plant and each year you will prune back to those trunks.

3.  Growing grapes on an arbor like this is not the most ideal way to grow grapes.  Although it is a beautiful addition to your edible landscape there are more productive ways to grow and prune grapes.  I say that not to discourage you, but instead to make sure you are informed that an arbor like this will produce fewer and sometimes smaller grapes than you might get using other methods.

4.  Growing grapes on an arbor like this is not a “maintenance free” proposition.  You still need to plan on pruning your grapes early each spring to keep your arbor productive and to keep it from becoming a tangled out of control mess!

Building a Grape Arbor

So as you can see this worked out beautifully and is just what Valerie had been looking for.  You are welcome to take my plan and tweak it how ever you would like.  You could easily add additional decorative features to the arbor, you can cut angles or designs in the top posts and boards.  I’m planning on designing and making a nice welcome sign to add to the front of this, as this will be the main entry way for guests to enter our garden.  Have fun with the design and make it your own.

Building a Grape Arbor 1

It turns out that describing how I built this arbor was a little harder than I thought!  So if there are any parts where you have questions feel free to ask them in the comment section and I will get back to you with an answer!!

 

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