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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
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So Much Growth

The warm rains have helped kick off so much green on the farm. It is nice to watch everything grow. The fall and winter test plantings of fig, elderberry and pawpaw in the back field are growing well. We’ve had a few figs that might not make it, but overall it is looking good.

I hope you enjoy the pictures from this week.

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Growing and Drying Herbs at Home

Herbs are often the first crop that we harvest. We grow them close to our house so they can be harvested just before cooking with them. If you are permaculturalist, then this is our zone 1.

This year we hope to have plenty of 

  • rosemary
  • oregano
  • dill
  • coriander / coriander
  • basil (best used fresh, not dry)


Pairing a basil with fresh mozarella and tomatoes with a sweet sauce drizzled on top is definitely a summertime treat

Herbs are one of the easiest crops to grow. We have already started harvesting herbs from some of our established pots and beds. They don’t take much space and you’ll get to enjoy them all summer long. If you dry your excess herb crop then you can enjoy them this winter as well.

Drying your own herbs is also super simple. Below is a link to a video that explains how.


We’ve also freeze dried herbs very successfully. They freeze dry quickly and store for a very long time.


I also enjoy seeing flowers in our yard. Here are some pictures from this morning

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Potato Planting Class (Part 2) and Finding Meaning in Life for Men

What beautiful weather and a nice day to plant potatoes. We took time to plant potatoes (and a few onions) then cover with hay.

We also installed drip tape. Because potatoes are a early crop and generally finish before the summer temperature gets hot, we may not need to irrigation the potatoes. The need to irrigate is driven by how much rain we get in May and early June.

Why work hard on the farm when we can just to go the grocery store? What does that have to do with doing big things as a man?

Growing your own food has many benefits for the farmer and people who work on a farm.

Getting out on the farm and working with our hands leads to good conversation and a sense of accomplishment. Men do better in life when we can take on and accomplish big things. What are we responsible for in life? We have responsibilities at work. We have responsibilities at home. What big things are we doing?

Our jobs are tenuous. You could be severed from your employer in one conversation because someone 1000 miles away made a decision while looking at a spreadsheet. We trade hours of our lives for time spent at the office. I’m not anti-company, I just recognize the system that surrounds us. Most of us work for someone else to earn a living and that is the system that we currently live in. Working for someone else is how we pay the bills and there isn’t anything inherently wrong with that. The tenuous nature of the relationship with our employers means that we should not seek meaning in life because of our position at some company but instead in what we do that has lasting value.

Growing part of your own food means that you have taken on responsbilities for the following:

  • for the land and the soil
  • for the crops that you have to nurture and harvest
  • for yourself so that you are there to prepare, plant, nurture and harvest
  • for the time you spend
  • for getting to know the people you work with as you grow your own food
  • the neighbors that you give some of your excess food
  • leaving the land better off than when you found it
  • leaving behind a lasting legacy of abundance – abundance that you developed and nurtured

How are you serving others around you?

These are all questions and opportunities for us as men to answer as we seek to live meaninful lives.

The abundance of a single fig tree and doing big things

Even a single fig tree can provide a bountiful harvest for generations. If you plant and nurture that tree, you are providing figures for generations. Having a purpose in life and accepting responsibility for a man is one way to develop joy. Don’t “search” for joy in things or titles, instead develop joy and purpose by accepting responsibility. Men were made to do big things. What is your big thing? Accepting the responsibility to do those big things can bring joy to your life.

Pictures from this week on the farm

Putting down hay to suppress weeds in the potatoes that we just planted
New bee hives!
Picnic table is a great spot for taking a break
Potatoes planted and covered with hay and drip lines in place
Potatoes ready to grow
Buckwheat cover crop planted in tilled areas
Garlic is growing
The Paw Paw seedlings we planted last fall are coming to life
Another Paw Paw seedling is growing
Paw Paw seedling leaves looking for sun
Baby figs on the way
More baby figs
Comfrey is blooming
Comfrey is growing nicely
Figs coming to life
Blackberries are growing
Nice to see the blackberries growing
More blackberry growth
Snakes are back out and hunting food
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Small But Mighty Growing Potatoes Classes

We had a great day on the farm teaching how to plant potatoes.

Yesterday (Friday, the day before class) I was out on the farm getting the rows ready to plant. It was all going well until it started raining. One of the challenge with planting potatoes is rain and wet ground, which also seems to happen when we go to plant potatoes. I’m not sure if I would know how to plant potatoes without standing in mud between the rows.

Today we accomplished the following:

– demonstrated and did hands-on cutting of seed potatoes in pieces to plant
– planted approximately 200 linear feet of three different varieties of potatoes
– installed and tested drip tap for the potatoes
– planted approximately 320 onions

This is the first day in a multipart class where we plan to prepare, plant, maintain and hopefully harvest some awesome potatoes grown without synthetic fertilizer, no herbicides and no pesticides using a low till approach. We work hard to practice regenertive farming.

I realize that if there aren’t pictures of video then did it really happen? So, lets take a look at the pics. Check out the purple potatoes! Scroll to the end for some bonus pictures.

More normal looking potatoes
Purple potatoes ready to plant!
Getting ready to dig in
Planting potatoes, albeit muddy
Drip line installed and potatoes planted
Surveying the work – agricultural therapy at its finest

P.S. Planting one more tree

About this time of year, I declare I’m done planting new trees or perennials until fall. But there is also the temptation to plant just one more fruit bearing tree or bush. Friday, it was just me on the farm and I had brought with me a fig that somehow didn’t get planted this fall or winter. So, I decided to plant one more tree. Thanks to Connie for getting the fig cutting and turning it into a figlet that was ready to plant. One day, if all goes well, we’ll be trying to figure out what to do with a lot of figs.

My dad always says “the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago and the next best time to plant a tree is this afternoon”.

Jean montie roland, quoting someone else, but still great advice

Getting ready to plant the “last” fig until fall
Figlet planted
Wire cage to keep the deer away from the figlet so it can grow

P.P.S. Parting Throught

I haven’t run this meme by my wife yet, but I’m confident she will agree. I’ll ask her after I water the chickens.

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Nice Day in March and New Bees

Walking through the farm reveals a plethora of bushes and trees that are budding out. A few weeks ago, many of these bushes and plants were dormant. Now buds are forming and you can see the first signs of growth of the year.

Last year we sold out of honey from the farm. This year we are adding more bees. The first new hives arrived this week.

The first of the new bee hives have arrived!
Peach tree budding out
More peach buds

Fig tree buds
Terminal bud on a fig tree
Buds on one of the blackberry plants
Blueberries are putting out buds
Mulberry trees are growing quickly
The mighty goji berries seem upstoppable already
Elderberries are off and running, they do so well here
Hazel bush buds arriving. Looking forward to having hazel nuts in 2-3 years

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Join us for Farm Tour Day!

Every year we do a farm tour. This is a great chance to meet the farmers and see the farm. We’ll show you our work in progress and talk about how we do regenerative farming.

Farm tour includes

– detailed tour (family friendly)
– 1/2 lb of honey from our remote mountain location of Troublesome Gap, NC

What to Bring

Just bring yourself and your family and comfortable shoes. We plan to walk on grassy fields and uneven ground.

We are Dirt Farmers and Pesticide / Insecticide Free

If we grow good dirt, then plants will grow and produce abundantly. We use a minimum of organic fertlizers. We avoid the use of synthetic fertilizers. We also don’t use any pesticides or insecticides. We do use natural amendments like woodchips, hay (pesticide / herbicide free) and feather meal.

Diversity of Plants and Trees on the Farm

Let us introduce you to some of the variety of plants, bushes and trees on the farm including

Row Crops
– garlic and onions
– potatoes
– moringa

Fruit Bearing Trees
– mulberry
– hazel
– black walnut
– figs
– olive
– persimmon
– paw paw
– yaupon holley
– pecan

Fruit Bearing Bushes
– blueberry
– goji berry
– elderberry
– blackberry

Specialty
– native cactus (edible / nopales)
– comfrey
– honey bees




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Our Family Has Vines and Bushes to be Trimmed

The love of farming and gardening often spans generations. This is true for our family. We have 3 generations that that currently grow fruit bearing vines, bushes and trees. Our family has 4 properties with fruit bearing bushes, vines and trees to prune and trim. During the month of February we have trimmed:

  • blueberry bushes
  • grape vines
  • fig trees
  • various fruit trees

There were a few years where some of my mom’s grapevines and blueberry bushes didn’t get the attention they needed to we have been working to get them in better condition.

It was a great way to spend time with family. Thanks to my family for letting us enjoy that time together.

They are getting in better shape every year
These vines produce so many grapes every year
The neighbor’s puppies wanted to help
One of the projects for next year is to look at replacing the posts that support the trellises
The puppies were definitely distracting my wife