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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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Let’s Plant Onions

There was a break in the weather and it gave us time to plant onions. We have almost 1,000 onions sets started this year. We planted the onions and then covered with hay. The hay helps suppress weeds and makes weeding so much easier. The hay also serves as a soil amendment as it composts.

Word of warning with using hay, or any compost, in your garden: it is important to make sure that you aren’t introducing herbicides into your garden through the hay or compost. The vast majority of hay is sprayed with a herbicide. Compost from your local municipality usually contains grass that was treated herbicides. That free compost from the city or county can kill the plants in your garden. Here is a good resource on the topic – click here

How to buy produce and cuttings from Simply Us Farm

When we have produce available, we’ll announce it here and through our email list. Many of the the items from our farm are only available for a short season and often just once per year.

Onions planted, next is covering with hay
Hay covering the onions and garlic
Garlic is weeded and covered with hay
This toad was hiding in a patch of weeds in the garlic

The daffodils are blooming. Nice to see the beautiful colors

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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
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Upcoming Class – Learn to Plant and Grow Potatoes

Learn to Plant and Grow Potatoes

Come join us for a fun and educational event where you can learn all about planting potatoes! Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or a beginner, this in-person event in Bennett, NC, USA is perfect for anyone interested in growing their own potatoes.

During this hands-on workshop, our farmer will guide you through the potato planting process. From cutting up seed potatoes, preparing the soil and planting potatoes, you’ll gain valuable knowledge and practical skills to grow a bountiful potato harvest. You’ll actually get to work in the soil to get potatoes in the ground and ready to go.

This class starts out by planting potatoes. Following class sessions allow you to learn by doing and helping maintain the potatoes you helped plant. There will be 5 sessions between the inital date and harvest. If you come to 3 of 5 sessions (including the intial day), then you are invited to join us for the harvest day (late May / early Jun).

Discover how to plant and care for your own potatoes. Don’t miss out on this exciting opportunity to dig into the world of potato gardening!

Important note: if weather causes a delay, we will reschedule the next weekend (weather permitting)

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Daikon Working While the Farmer Rests

Daikon (sometimes call field radish or mooli) is a large radish of Japanese origin. We use it as a cover crop on the farm. The daikon helps in 3 ways:

  1. keeps roots and plant life active in the soil over the fall and winter months. This helps keep the soil biologically active. A good farmer first grows soil. If you have good soil then you can grow great plants that are full of nutrients
  2. the tuber sinks down into the ground and helps keep the soil from compacting while expanding the soil at the location where the tuber is growing
  3. acts as a bioaccumulator that takes into nitrogen from the process of photosynthesis and stores it in the tuber

This spring we will terminate the cover crop, leaving the tuber in place to compost over the summer returning the nutrients to the soil. We avoid the use of synthetic fertilizer and cover crops are a big part of making that possible.

Thanks for checking in with what is happening at the farm.

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Farm is Sleeping, Spring is Peeking

This time of year, I tell myself that we have put the farm to bed for the winter. I think saying that belies the actuality that some of the plants keep growing, albeit slowly. Also, it makes it easier to take a break from working on the farm. The downtime is valuable for us farmers.

The garlic is doing well . In the picture below you can see places where weeks are starting to poke through the hay. The next step with the garlic is to put down more hay to help supress weeds. I like growing garlic. It is easy to grow and low maintenance since most of the growing occurs in the winter when most of the weeks have died back.

I hope that you can use to winter months to rest, refit and recharge. Spring will be here before we know it.

Garlic is growing, even on chilly days
You can identify the elephant garlic by the wider leaves
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Our Love Affair with Elderberries

Elderberry plants are robust and easy to grow in most of NC. The umbrals are easy to harvest. The flowers and the berries have many healthy uses. We have found that many people don’t realize the healthy benefits from elderberries growing in the ditch that they drive by every day on the commute to and from work. However, a surprising number of people take a teaspoon of elderberry syrup every day during the fall and winter to help fight off colds.

Elderberry is a plant of contrasts. Join us and walk through some of these contrasts. Let us share what we have learned by growing this amazing plant.

Elderberry flowers
Elderberries almost ready to harvest

Elderberries grow wild in NC, usually on a ditch bank or in wet soil. They are everywhere, but many of the wild plants are in locations that are hard to reach at the time of harvest. If you enjoy foraging, then consider adding elderberries to your summer foraging retinue. The berries you harvest will be worth it.

Elderberry plants spread along the ground and a row of elderberry plants tends to be come a hedge. If you plan ahead, it is easy enough to manage the hedge by mowing and just have to prune once a year when the plants are dormant. If you were to plant your elderberries in the middle of an area where you can’t mow around them to control spread then you might have a difficult time managing them. They can be invasive, but if you plan ahead before you plant them it really isn’t a problem.

Elderberry plants growing in a row

Harvesting elderberry umbrals is straight forward. Removing the berries from the stems can be a challenge. Some of the ways to remove berries from the umbral are easier than others. At some point in the future, it would be great to add a destemmer to the equipment we use on the farm.

This year we have making different elderberry products including:

  • elderberry syrup
  • infused elderberry honey
  • elderberry oxymel
  • liquid of elderberry
  • dehydrated elderberries
  • freeze dried liquid of elderberry
  • freeze dried elderberries

It is really cool seeing the dark, dark and luxurious purple liquid that comes from the elderberries. Especially knowing all the health benefits in the liquid.

Growing and processing elderberries has been a wonderful learning experience. We’ve enjoyed teaching how to grow elderberries in hands on classes. Thanks for letting us share with you.

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Putting the Farm to Bed for the Winter

Everything has a season. The cover crops are planted. The hay is put down. The last of the trees and bushes planted. In the last 2 weeks, we have planted paw paw, elderberry and figs.

The cover crop is a mixture of austrian peas, daikon radish and clover. We’ve also planted clover in areas where we cleared brush and limbs. If all goes well there should be plenty of clover for the bees next year.

The first deep frost has come and gone. The fig tree leaves and the elephant ears show the passage of the frost. Many of the young trees we planted have dropped their leaves. It was good year and its nice to be able to take a break.

It takes a lot of help and input and learning to make a farm work. I thank everyone who helped make this year a success!

Pecan tree in the ground and ready to grow roots this fall and winter
Last of the figs before the frost
Connie spotted this grasshopper