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First Comfrey Harvest

Over the past year we have been planting comfrey in the food forest. We have also started planting comfrey with many of the trees and bushes that we plant. Comfrey is a great plant that has several jobs on the farm. These jobs (also known as function stacking for the permaculture crowd) include:

  • ground cover that suppresses grass and weeds for the plants and trees that we plant the comfrey around
  • living mulch that we can chop and drop in the fall to compost in place
  • medicinal plant that can be used in a salve or poultice

Today, we harvested enough comfrey leaves to make a full run in the freeze dryer. The plan is to freeze dry the comfrey and then make a salve. I’ve never made anything before with comfrey so this will be a new experience

We plan to offer comfrey on demand. When an order is placed, we’ll schedule a day for porch pickup in Sanford (most likely a Saturday). This allows you to have comfrey that was harvested earlier in the day. Next year we hope to offer comfrey root cuttings so you can plant your own comfrey.

The picture below shows comfrey leaves ready to go into the freezer and then the freeze dryer.

Elderberry Harvest Continues

We are still harvesting elderberry. The dry weather in June seems to have caused us to have smaller berries this year, but we are still getting a nice harvest.

Figs Growing Taller and Taller

It is nice to see our fig trees continue to grow. Many of them are covered with figs. We can’t wait to try them

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Potato Growing Class Wraps Up

We have a great time during the last session of our potato growing class. I am proud to say that we finished with 100% of the people that started the class. We had a nice harvest of potatoes. It was great to work with everyone for a class spanning several months

Currently Available Produce

This week we have

  • elderberries
  • garlic (very limited supply)
  • raw honey from the farm in Bennett
  • raw honey from Troublesome Gap
  • goji berries (you pick – email to schedule a time)

Visit our online store to place your order. We do porch pickups in Sanford, NC. Just select “porch pickup” as a shipping option when you place your order. Visit the online store here or click on the “Store” link at the top of the page.

Lack of Rain and Hot, but Some Plants Do Well

The fig trees are loving the high temperatures and growing like crazy. The warm spell in Feb of 2023 caused a lot of damage to our figs but now they are recovering nicely. The birds are enjoying the seeds from the sunflower heads

Future Plans

We have a wooded section on the farm comprising several acres. This part of the property was actively farmed 30 years ago. One of the goals for the farm is have a park like appearance. Having a beautful farm adds to the enjoyment.

The are several areas that were previously terraced and farmed but are now tree covered. We would like to reclaim an area for growing elderberries. There is an area with great microclimate. There is also flow of rainwater draining off the field that we can manage to provide an area that won’t need irrigation.

We’ve been working to manage the area grown up areas to

  • build abundance
  • return part of that abundance to the land and wildlife
  • provide a home for wildlife, diverse native plants and insects
  • provide pollinating plants for the bees on the farm and other pollinators

The first step is to have a plan that is open to pivoting. I’m realizing how important it is to be able change plans are we learn and discover more about farming and about our property. The next step is to remove brush, dead trees and small trees that don’t support the goals of the plan. This week I had an opportunity to do some work with the bush hog. Here are some pictures of the results.

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Elderberries Incoming!

We have started picking elderberries from our food forest. Please contact me if you are interested in placing an order. We don’t use any insecticides or pesticides. The fertilizer we use on them is organic.

You can order your elderberries here (select “porch pickup” under shipping options for local pickup in Tramway)

Raspberries

We have been trying a variety of raspberries that was developed for the climate in this area. Many raspberries just won’t tolerate the warmer tempertures here (zone 8a). That is why you see raspberries mainly in the mountains. The plants came from Rabbit Ridge Berry Farm in Coats, NC. We have bought friut bearing trees and bushes from them. They have great products and are wonderful to work with. They also have a u-pick farm.

Blueberries

This is our first year of having a blueberry harvest, even a small one. Previously our plants were too young, so we pulled the berries when they first formed to encourage the plant to put its energy into the plant instead of the fruit. The first of the blueberries are almost ready to harvest. I can’t wait to have blueberry pancakes.

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Garlic Incoming

We harvested most of our garlic today. Once we have it processed, we should have a limited amount available for sale. We didn’t use any insecticides or pesticides and we practice regenerative farming where we try to continuously improve our soil. Once we have an idea of what we have available, I’ll post it here. Please keep in mind that we only harvest garlic once per year, so when we sell out we won’t have more until this time next year. In the meantime, here are some pictures of part of the garlic and onions that we harvested today

Garlic and onions
Elephant garlic
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Getting Young Trees Ready for Summer

The project this week was getting the young trees ready for summer. This involves pulling off the anti-deer cages, weeding around the trees and then putting mulch around the base of the trees. The mulch helps to keep the soil around the tree moist. It also helps trap water when we water the trees during the summer months. As the mulch breaks down, it will also provide nutrients to the trees.

The elderberries are coming right along. We are looking forward to having a great elderberry harvest.

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Upcoming Availability and Harvest

Its been a busy year on the farm. Many of our plantings will take years before we will have a crop.

Here are some upcoming crops that we hope to have available for sale soon:

  • elderberries
  • honey (local, from the farm)
  • garlic – one crop per year so make sure to order all you need for the year (should be available in 2-3 weeks)
  • onions – one crop per year so make sure to order all you need for the year
  • figs – very limited quanties
  • blackberries – limited quantities

We don’t use pesticides or insecticides on our crops and practice low-till regenerative farming.

We’ll send out an email when we know exact dates of availability. Thanks for following along with our journey.

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Designing a Campsite to Inspire Wonder

Click to play

Connie and I both enjoy camping. Getting away from all the trappings of modern life. Constantly being connected via a cell phone. The ease of watching any of 1000s of movies and tv shows with a click.

There is only limited cell phone service on the farm so you are lucky to get a text message or call through. There is a certain ability to relax when you are disconnected. We put the campsite in the back field in the most important part of the field from a visual perspective and an agricultural perspective. We want this campsite to be a focal point of a wonderful story. The campsite has fruit bearing trees in it that replicate the blackberry, figs, pawpaw and elderberry plants that are bountiful on the farm. There is a fire circle and a bench in the camping circle. There is room for a big tent or several small tents. We want this to be a special place that leads to special memories.

Details are important. You have to walk to the spot, short walk, but still a walk. Even the bench is designed to make the trip special. The seat is just a little too far off the ground. So even if you are tall your feet hang down just a little. The seat is just a little too deep so you feel a little small in the bench. Just enough to where you feel just a little small in the middle of the big field, under the big sky. Just so we remember what is important.

Lee Ann Womack sang

I hope you never lose your sense of wonder
You get your fill to eat, but always keep that hunger
May you never take one single breath for granted
God forbid love ever leave you empty-handed …

I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean
Whenever one door closes, I hope one more opens
Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance …

I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance
Never settle for the path of least resistance
Livin’ might mean takin’ chances, but they’re worth takin’
Lovin’ might be a mistake, but it’s worth makin’ …

In a lot of ways this song was the inspiration for the campsite. Even as adults we need to play. We need to find adventure. Seek it out. Even if it is a small adventure. We need to wonder.

Simply Us Farm is an adventure. It is us wondering what could be. Trying new things and innovating. Definitely not going the path of least resistance. Check out the song below, maybe it inspires you too. If all our farm ever accomplishes is to help you develop a sense of wonder, a desire to play, and wanting a adventure in front of you, then we have succeeded. Today’s world is just crazy, but the farm is about the simple. Simple is what we need sometimes.

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Farm Tours! – Our Annual Fun Day on the Farm

Thanks to everyone who came. We had 16 attendees from 8 families. What a great day. We shared about permaculture, design thinking, innovation and regenerative farming. Attendes learned about how we go about building good soil so the plants, trees and bushes thrive. We also talked about how we farm without insecticides or pesticides. Attendees also learned how we do function stacking so many plants on the farm have multiple jobs.

We also had a meal for people who have attended our classes. It was nice sharing a meal with familiar faces. Thanks to everyone who attended. Also, thanks to everyone that helps make the farm a success.

One of the new items we showed off on the farm tour is our growing cadre our medicinal plants. We now have

  • comfrey
  • witch hazel
  • white yarrow
  • motherwort
Motherwort is planted and ready to grow

Here are some views from the farm this weekend

My opportunity to share about our farm

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Berries are Blooming

We’ve been getting ready for the farm tours so this will be a shorter post. We are seeing lots of green growth all over the farm. The elderberries, blueberries and blackberries are starting to bloom so it won’t be long before we have berries. The potatoes are starting to bloom so its time to hill around them to encourage potato growth.

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Planting Medicinals and Building a Fire Circle

There are always plenty of projects going on at the farm. One of our initiatives for this year is to build a garden for medicinal herbs. We have elderberry and comfrey in several places on the farm, but there are so many medicinal herbs available. It would be nice to add some of those to the farm. We just planted witch hazel bushes. Witch hazel has medicinal properties and provides pollen in the very early spring to the bees. The very early spring is a time when bees may have difficulty finding enough pollen. Witch hazel also has a unique flower. Combining these three advantages is an example of function stacking. Function stacking is where one item, in this case witch hazel bushes, does multiple jobs on the farm. Function stacking is a term commonly used in permaculture circles. We planted witch hazel in the driveway loop and in the back field between the pecan trees.

Benefits of witch hazel

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/witch-hazel-benefits-uses

Witch hazel surrounded by partially composed hay

We’ve also been slowly adding yaupon holly. The picture shows a test planting in the back field. The back field tends to be warmer and drier. There is also a soil type that isn’t available anywhere else on the property. Yaupon holly is also used to make tea. As far as I know, it is the only caffeine bearing plant that grows in our climate.

Yaupon holley in the back field

Camp and Forage Experience in the Making


Another project we’ve been wanting to work on is building a fire circle for the camping spot in the back field. We call this site “The Middle of the Field, Literally”. The site is in the field with wide open views and skies. The site is round and encircled by a cultivated ring what currently has a cover crop in it. Right now the cover crop is a mixture of sudan / sorghum hybrid and buckwheat. Right now there are several places with buckwheat growing on the farm. The cover crop helps build better soil. Inside the cultivated ring is another ring. This ring consists of plants found on the farm. Right now those plants are fig, elderberry, pawpaw, elephant ear and blackberries. The goal is to have a variety of fruit that is available inside the campsite. That allows you to get up and pick a blackberry, fig, pawpaw or elderberry right in the campsite. This should be a unique experience – camp and forage for a snack without leaving the campsite. The campsite is a walk in campsite (about a 1/4 mile way) for a nice and remote experience. As the plan moves forward, we plan to add signage and trails directs visitors to other areas in the farm that have other perennials. Maybe one day we can offer a foraging experience for visitors. It would be nice to add pick your own apothecary tour from our medicinal garden.

Campsite rental info: https://www.hipcamp.com/en-US/land/north-carolina-simply-us-farm-and-camping-retreat-zwjhp868/sites/639687

We just added blackberries, fire circle and a bench. We also mulched around the plants. The back field gets constant sun and wind in the summer and can get dry. We applied a heavy mulch around the plants. The thick mulch helps to suppress weeds and regulate the moisture at the plants roots. This helps the plant’s roots from drying out in the summer and going through dry and wet spells between summer rains.

The camp and forage concept for the campsite will take a while to come together. It will probably take 2-3 years before the plants grow enough to have a nice crop of fruit and berries. The pawpaw will be 5-10 years. We are taking a long view of how to develop the property. We have done a good bit of customer research using design thinking principles as a guide. Part of my day job is doing industrial design. At work I use a computer and sketches to develop concepts. The farm is this wonderful confluence of developing voice of the customer, vision development and sketching. The important difference is that on the farm we use a tractor and trees and plants to create a sketch and then a prototype. Thanks for following along with our journey.

Bench and fire circle ready to enjoy
New firecircle ready for use
Pawpaw growing at the campsite
Elephant ears suviving in the middle of a field, defintely falls under go figure
Fig tree coming up at the campsite

Gifted Roses Blooming

Our neighbor gave us 2 roses that she had dug up. We planted them at the farm a few weeks ago and boom, we have flowers.

Roses blooming
Roses with a nice bloom

Bees and Stumps and Flowers for Moms

The bees are super active and a little grumpy. I definitely could hear their buzzing as I was filling up the UTV with mulch from the wood chip pile near the hives.

Bees are so very active

We thought this stump had a cool look so Connie took a picture. Such a unique patter in the base of the stump

Cool picture of a stump

We stopped for a late lunch at a restaurant on the way home. It is good that restaurants in the country are used to smelly and dirty people who have been working outside. They were giving out a flower to every mom that ate a meal. That was a nice pre mothers day treat.

Restaurant on the way home giving away a flower to every mom
Beautiful flowers