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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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Simply Us Farm at the Sanford Farmer’s Market on Saturday

We plan to have a booth at the Sanford Farmer’s on Saturday, Nov 11th, 2023. Come join us and grab some of our wonderful honey! The market is open from 8:30 AM – 1 PM. The address is 115 Chatham St, Sanford, NC 27330, USA

If you can’t make it to the market, we can ship honey or you can do a porch pickup in Sanford. Click on the image below to place your order.

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Great Day Teaching How to Prune and Plant Elderberries

It is always wonderful when we get the opportunity to teach a skill from the farm. We had a great time and tried our best to answer some really thoughtful questions.

How We Plant Elderberries

Step 1 – Cuttings

We start off by trimming away branches from the elderberry plant that either:

– get in the way of the lawnmower by sticking out in the grass row
– grow inward and won’t receive enough light because of the vertical branches

Keep in mind that you can very aggressively prune elderberries so there isn’t a wrong approach

Each cutting should have at least 4 nodes. A node is the joint where roots (underground) or branches (above ground) will grow from. 2 nodes to plant under the ground and 2 nodes above the ground. The distance between the bottom nodes determines how deep you have to plant the cutting, so keep that mind when you select cuttings to plant.

The cutting should be at least the size of a pencil. Larger cuttings are ok, but the distance between the nodes will increase and the hole for planting will need to increase as well. The length of the cutting can be anywhere from 2 to 4 feet long. Longer cuttings are nice because they are easier to see as the grass around them grows and you are less likely to mow them over in the spring. This is the voice of experience speaking.

You also want to wait until the plant is no longer actively growing to make your cuttings.

Step 2 – Preparation

Dig a hole for each plant or use a piece of rebar and a hammer to form a hole that you can drop the woody cutting into. We place the holes 2 feet part. The distance between the holes i driven by how dense you want the elderberry plants as they grow. We’ve seen suggestions that varied from 2 to 6 feet between plants. We’ve had good success planting potted elderberries at 6 feet apart. Since we are planting cuttings this time, we are reducing the distance to 2 feet.

Step 3 – Companion Plants

One of our goals for the perennials on the farm it to do companion planting and create guilds. This is very much a permaculture principle. This year we are experimenting with planting comfrey at the same time as the elderberries. The planting pattern is:

– elderberry
– 2 foot spacing
– elderberry
– 1 foot spacing
– comfrey
– 1 foot spacing
– repeat

We have also sewn the following cover crop on either side of the elderberry row:

– winter peas
– daikon
– clover

We’ll terminate the cover crop later. The cover crop will help prepare the root bed for the elderberries. We’ll continue to see clover as a companion crop. The comfrey should spread over time and fill in and around the elderberry and also suppress weeds and grass around the elderberries.

We planted comfrey cuttings from Perma Pastures Farm https://permapasturesfarm.com/ . They have a wonderful Youtube channel and provide great customer service. We highly recommend them.

Step 4 – Planting

We used a shovel, rebar and hammer to plant the elderberries and comfrey, careful to insert the elderberry deep enough to have 2 nodes below grade. The comfrey root cutting needs to be placed in a horizontal orientation approximated 1 inch deep. Make sure everything is covered over.

The ground was wet and it was raining while we were planting so there wasn’t a big need to water the plantings.

Step 5 – Wait

The cover crop will grow this fall, but we don’t expect to see much activity from the elderberries or comfrey until spring.

Goij Berries

We ended the day by picking our fill of goji berries. Those berries are in the dehydrator now.

Elderberry Cuttings

We have elderberry cuttings available now if you want to start your own elderberry plants. Contact us here to order. The cuttings are seasonal and available from approximately October through early March.

Check back with us

We plan to post pictures in spring to show the progress. Joining our mailing list is a great way to keep in touch and follow along

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Changes to the Farm

A farm can be beautiful and functional. We have put a lot of emphasis on getting the orchard and food forest planted and growing crops for the past 2 years. This week we put the emphasis on improving the property and doing some cleanup.

Hargrove Lawn Care in Bear Creek, NC did a wonderful job helping to move brush and clear out areas so we can come back and plant pollinators. They also took out trees and bushes to make maintaining the property easier. They also opened up a spot for a fire circle and chairs. Its amazing what a trained operator with a skid steer can do in a day. Now we need to get planting clover and pollinators in these areas.

It will be nice to have a spot for a fire circle with room for a big group. The trees are out of the way so we can start bringing the rocks over and build the fire circle.

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Trellis for Goji Berry and Raspberry

The goji berry plants are really growing. Nice to trellis both goji berries plants and the raspberries. We actually sampled our first blueberries on the farm today. That was a nice treat and milestone. It was nice having a few blackberries as well.

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Bees on the Farm

If you’ve ever wondered what it is like to have bees and check to see if they are producing honey, then check out the video

The bees pollinate the fruit bearing plants and crops while they are producing honey. The honey actually takes on a different taste depending on which plants are blooming.

Good news – we will have honey soon


We partner with Blue Truck Honey to have bees on our farm. They are in Apex, NC

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Camping on the Farm

It was nice to have a weekend where we just enjoyed camping on the farm, without working. The grilled creation was cooked over the fire in the black cast iron cookers. The shell was made of corn dog roll with hot dogs, chili and onions inside. Tasty!

The Mayapples are growing. We never get any of the fruit because the critters always beat us to it.

You can camp on the farm too, just visit

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