Things I don’t buy at the store anymore…
1. Tomato Sauce & Salsa - pasta sauce, pizza sauce, diced tomatoes for chili… it’s all from the garden now.
2. Canned Beans - I can my own at home now and I still get the convenience of opening a jar, but it’s way cheaper.
3. Pickles - we make a variety of pickles from sweet to sour to spicy. So we no longer need to buy these.
4. Jams and Jellies - we make our own with local fruit! 👏🏻
5. Canned Veggies - from garden to canner… we eat #homegrown all year.
6. Broths and Stocks - I can my own broth and stock. And it’s way easier and cheaper than I ever really thought it could be.
7. Canned Soup - I make and can my own!
I’m not sharing any of this to brag. I’m sharing it because I’m realizing that small changes add up to BIG results over time. I might not be farming hundreds of acres, but I’m stewarding 3 acres well. I’m learning to work with the land to feed my family. I’m learning something new everyday.
What’s one skill you really want to focus on learning or improving in 2022?
I turned my backyard into a garden and was shocked at the sheer volume of vegetables we can grow in a single season. Here’s how we maximize space and make the most of our backyard garden.
1. GROW VERTICALLY - You can grow more volume when you focus on growing up. We use livestock fence panels from Tractor Supply and shape them into arches between the garden beds and walls to line the garden perimeter. I have a highlight on the trellises we use and how they are installed on our Instagram page. 😉
2. GROW SEASONALLY - When I planted my first garden, I assumed there was one single garden season and I planted all the things I wanted to grow at once. That’s why I failed. Gardening is best done by the seasons. Some vegetables prefer cooler weather and do well in spring or fall (cabbage, peas, broccoli, lettuce, etc). Others do best in early summer (beans, cucumbers, kale) and still other love the mid and late summer heat (tomatoes, peppers, etc). When you plant in the right season, your harvest will improve drastically.
3. GROW IN SUCCESSION. Try succession planting to extend your harvests. Instead of planting all the green beans at once. Plant a section and then wait and plant another in two weeks. I sow new green beans and cucumbers several times through the warm season to keep them producing all summer long.
What’s your favorite garden tip? Let’s share all our best tricks in the comments and help each other grow!
Pumpkin pie cobbler is a fun twist on a classic Thanksgiving dish. It's a rich and filling dessert that is always a hit when I take it to parties and potlucks. I recently shared photos of this simple cobbler on Instagram and got dozens of requests for the recipe, so here it is. I hope pumpkin pie cobbler will find a place on your table this Thanksgiving season.
1 - 30 ounce can of pumpkin pie mix
1 1/3 cups sugar
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup chopped pecans
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks butter (melted)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Make your filling:
Combine all the filling ingredients in a large bowl and stir until smooth and blended. Pour into a cast iron skillet. (You could also use a glass baking dish, but I love using cast iron. If you're new to cast iron, here's a good starter cast iron skillet like the one I used in this recipe).
Make your topping:
Add the dry ingredients to a bowl and mix with a fork. Pour in the melted butter and mix until it forms a crumbly texture. Sprinkle the crumb topping all over the pumpkin filling.
Bake for 45-50 minutes or until the top is gold brown. Enjoy!
If you try the recipe, leave a comment and let me know what you think. I hope you love this one as much as we do!
Growing medicinal herbs in the home garden can unlock a whole new world of benefits for your mental and physical health. Adding herbs to the home garden is easy and many of them are perennial so you don’t have to replant them year after year. Some of the most popular medicinal herbs for home use include:
When you first begin learning about herbs, it can be overwhelming. There are so many websites and books about medicinal herbs available today, but in my experience, very few of them are aimed at total beginners. So today, I want to break down some simple herb preparation methods you can use in your home garden to take advantage of the healing properties of herbs … no experience needed!
Method #1 - Brew Your Own Herbal Tea
Making tea is the easiest method to start using your homegrown medicinal herbs. A strong brewed tea can be helpful to treat a variety of health concerns. Peppermint leaves can be used to make a tea that boosts your mood and eases a headache. Lemon balm is an excellent plant to use for tea brewing and it can level out your mood and calm anxiety.
You can make DIY herbal tea with both fresh and dried leaves. If you are using fresh herbs, you’ll need around 3 or 4 large leaves for a cup of tea. Rinse your herbs off gently in cold water and then put them in your mug of choice. Pour hot water on top and let the herbs steep in the water for 5-7 minutes, depending how strong you like your tea.
If you’re working with dried leaves, you will need an infuser or a tea ball. This is the tea ball that I use regularly (bonus - it’s pretty inexpensive!). Fill the tea ball with your dried leaves and then place it in the mug and pour in hot water. Let it steep for 5-7 minutes, or until it is the strength you prefer.
Just a quick word of caution - some home brewed herbal teas can be bitter. You can counteract this by adding a spoonful of raw honey, which contains numerous health benefits of its own.
Method #2 - Make a Poultice
Using medicinal herbs in a poultice allows you to directly apply the herbs topically. To try this method, crush the herbs up and mash them into a paste and then spread it directly onto the skin. Cover the area with gauze or muslin to hold the poultice in place. You can adjust the temperature of the poultice depending on how you are using it. A warm poultice will boost circulation while a cold poultice is best if you are trying to soothe inflammation. While most people reach for salves for topical applications, a poultice is actually more beneficial because you are using fresh herbs with the fullest benefits.
Method #3 - Make an Infusion
To create your own herbal infusion, you follow the same steps as if you were making tea, but allow it to steep for a much longer amount of time. Instead of 5-7 minutes, you might let the herbs steep for a full 24 hours to get maximum concentration of medicinal herb benefits from your homemade brew.
Method #4 - Create a Medicinal Syrup
You’ve probably heard of elderberry syrup, which has a near cult following for its healing benefits for the immune system. Medicinal syrups are a great way to use herbs when you have kids who aren’t likely to drink a typical herbal tea or infusion. Making syrups starts by boiling your herbs down in a decoction and then adding a sweetener. Here’s a great tutorial on how to make elderberry syrup.
Method #5 - Make a Tincture
Did you know you might already have a tincture hiding in your spice cabinet? Vanilla extract is very common tincture that many home cooks keep on hand. Tinctures are made by steeping herbs in alcohol or vinegar. I’ve found that the shelf life is superior if you use alcohol - a cheap vodka works perfectly. Tinctures are shelf stable and you can take them as a shot or add them into syrups.
Method #7 - Make an Herbal Steam Pot
One of the easiest ways to use medicinal herbs is through steam. Add herbs to a pot of water and bring it to a simmer on the stove. As it simmers, the steam will be infused with all the wonderful benefits of your herbs and your house will smell amazing. This is one of my favorite methods for using peppermint to combat sinus congestion. Stand over the steam and breathe deeply for a quick sinus cleanse.
These 7 ways to use medicinal herbs from the home garden will get you started on the journey of herbalism. If you would like to learn more, make sure you sign up for my newsletter to get monthly tips sent straight to your inbox (and no spam - I promise!).
I just came in from checking on the chickens and I noticed a chill in the air. It was that first little nip of cold that means fall is really here and winter is coming soon. Fall is critical time in your garden, so don’t pack up your garden gear quite yet. By investing a little time to prepare your garden for winter, you will have peace of mind that your soil is protected. Plus, you will enjoy a head start on spring’s garden chores.
Evaluate Your Garden Layout and Design
Take a little time to think about your current garden design and layout. What worked well for you in the garden this year? Is there something you would like to change? Maybe you had a vegetable that didn’t grow well this year and you want to place it in a different area of the garden next year. Now is the time to write down those observations and ideas. That way you can refer to it when you plant next spring. Fall is a good time to think about crop rotation too. If you want to rotate your crops, make sure you have drawn a garden map that you can refer to so you remember your previous year’s layout.
Clean Out the Garden
As the growing seasons starts to end, clean out the annual plants. Pull up the vegetable plants that are finished producing or damaged from the frost. Remove any weeds that have grown into your garden beds over the summer. Give yourself a fresh start in spring by removing weeds now. You’ll be glad you took this tip when it’s time to start planting next year.
Plant Cover Crops
Leaving your soil bare for any length of time is never a good idea. Uncovered, empty soil will quickly fill up with weeds and it can lose vital nutrients. You can avoid this by planting a cover crop for winter. There are a variety of cover crops you can use, ranging from wheat to rye to clover. You can also use cold hearty greens as a cover crop and have a harvestable vegetable in your garden even through the winter, depending on how cold it gets in your area.
Here in Zone 7B, we have successfully used collard greens, romaine lettuce, carrots, and cabbages as cover crops. They stop growing in the coldest part of winter, but when the temperatures warm and the days get longer, they will reawaken and start growing again. Keep in mind that this may not work in your climate so always check your growing zone or the farmer’s almanac for specific tips!
Mulch Your Garden
If you don’t want to plant cover crops, you can place a thick layer of mulch on your garden. I mulch all of my garden beds heavily before winter, including the beds where I have cover crops. You can mulch with any organic material - straw, wood chips, or my favorite free option - leaves! Put those piles of leaves to good use after you rake. Just dump the leaves on top of your garden. They will break down and enrich your soil!
Clean Your Pots, Trays, and Garden Tools
In just a few months, it will be time to start seeds for next year’s garden. Get a head start by cleaning all of your pots, trays, and tools now. Garden tools can actually carry diseases and spread pathogens from one plant to the next. Wash your pruners, your hand shovel, spade, hoe, and other tools in hot, soapy water. Dry them well to prevent rusting and then store them in a dry, covered place.
Make a List of Supplies to Restock
What supplies will you need when spring rolls around? Take time to make a list of what supplies you will need to purchase. Maybe you need more pots or trays for seed starting. Will you need new zip ties or string for tying up plants? Do you need more trellises or stakes or cages? Is there a garden tool you really want for next year? Make a list now and then you can purchase these items incrementally through the winter. These small purchases will help you avoid a major garden expense in the spring, plus you’ll have everything on hand and ready when it’s time to start spring gardening.
Take these small steps this now to prepare your garden for winter. The chill of fall will soon give way to freezing nights, so don’t miss your window of time to finish the garden season well and get everything in order for next year. Happy Gardening!