Saturday, May 4, 2019

Develop a gardening system for success

Its all happening now, the warm season is here and your mind is racing with things to plant or try. Let me offer you a couple suggestions... plan your garden and work the plan. If you have the space, you should make a couple different garden spots. If you visit our farm you'll see garden spots in what seems to be random places. But believe me, it's not random at all. Each spot we chose was very well thought out and carefully planned.
You might try to categorize your garden. Have a salad garden, a summer garden and a eat and store garden.

Salad garden:
The salad garden will include early season crops like lettuces, radishes, beets, carrots, scallions Asian greens and salad turnips. These all have shorter days to maturity and grow well in early spring. You don't need a lot space to grow a large amount of food either. A 6 ft by 8 ft area can grow a lot of food. I have designed a plan for you to reference below.
Salad mix

Summer garden:
Here is the one that gets everyone excited. Tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, melons, zucchini, summer squash, and the list goes on. A nice summer garden can keep your family in fresh produce for weeks. You can also can or freeze if you have too much. I consider it a bonus, it is literally like put putting money in my pocket. Last year we had an abundance of cherry tomatoes so we washed and froze them. Megan used them through the winter to make pasta dishes. Spaghetti squash with a marinara and cherry tomatoes is so, so good in winter. Too me, that's comfort food. A 30 ft by 40 ft area can yield a lot of produce for a family, if planned correctly.

Store and Eat garden:
This is where we plant potatoes, corn and all the winter squash you can imagine. We plant corn, then butternut and spaghetti squash next to the corn. The winter squash will vine out and cover the ground around the corn and choke out the weeds. Butternut and spaghetti squash will keep for 8 months, if it is stored properly. You can freeze corn on the cob, or you can cut it off and place in freezer bags and eat throughout winter.

Careful planning can make a huge difference, not only in the quality of your garden but also the quantity. Megan and I have been growing vegetables year around on our farm in Middle Tennessee for many years. We want to share our knowledge, and hope people can draw some inspiration on what we have learned over the years. We currently operate an on farm market with seasonal produce. Please share this with anyone you think might benefit from it. 

Jason Smith
Homesteader and Market Gardener
YouTube Channel:

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Making time to homestead

I wish they made more of this. You have to make time for this venture. Include your spouse and kids. I really feel that homesteading is a noble thing that is very underrated. Kids love playing in soil and getting dirty. Allow time for them to play and get dirty. And then sit back and observe them, and watch the gratitude they get from just being outside. Maybe you can find some happiness in watching your kids be happy.
Early spring baby romaine
lettuce head

When can we find time to homestead? Before work, after work and weekends. If you really want to do this you will make time. Don’t neglect your spouse and children, you need their support to be successful in this venture. Family first, then homestead. I have seen families ripped apart because folks don’t have their priorities in order. If your loved ones feel they are second place to your homestead, they will resent it. Trust me, it is possible to keep everyone happy.
Don’t move to the country on a whelm and think that the homesteading gene within you will come alive just because you are in the country. If you truly want to homestead, you will find a way to do it no matter where you are. Take time each day to read and learn a new skill. Reading will give you the basics, but taking time to actually do it will be the true test. I can give you detailed instructions on how to care for chickens or how to grow vegetables but until you actually do it yourself, in your climate, and in your yard, then you will never master it.
Make time to learn and understand your land. Observation is a powerful tool on your homestead. Take time to understand your micro climate. Look at your land and understand the layout, and where the sun hits throughout the day. How the wind blows across you land and how water drains. Take time to understand where the warm and cool spots are on your land during the seasons, especially fall and spring. Make time for this, it doesn’t take long. Wake early one morning, 5:30 am, and watch the sun come up. Do this for each season because you can make decisions on where you plant crops for the micro climate you live in.  Observe where the sun hits your land first thing in the morning. Ask yourself, should I put a garden here or a wind break? How much sunlight is this spot going to receive throughout the day? If it’s 10 hours of direct sunlight then you might want to plant tomatoes or peppers there, but not lettuce. Take time to observe, make your plan, then work your plan.
Homesteading is very rewarding but like anything you want master it takes time and the willingness to fail, then succeed. Be the master of your homestead, make time to understand your layout. Email me with question and share this with anyone you think might benefit from it.

Jason Smith
Homesteader and Market Gardener
YouTube Channel:

Saturday, April 13, 2019

No till garden

Do you understand the power of a chicken? We have learned to love and respect our flock, they do some amazing work for our farm. And they love doing it, I have never seen a chicken that did not enjoy scratching and pecking in the soil.  Chickens can do a lot for your homestead and they are very entertaining. But, I want to go into detail on one thing they did for us this winter. They prepped a garden spot for us.

If you follow us you know that we move our chickens however, this winter we put them on a spot and let them stay there all winter. They ate all the grass, weeds and they scratched down to the soil. We moved the chickens in early March and waited. As the sun came out and warmed the soil, weeds started to emerge. Grow weeds first, then kill the weeds and plant your garden.
Weeds began to emerge
after a couple weeks
Then, I took the flame weeder and torched the weeds. I love this tool, and I have never met a weed that stood up to my torch.
Torched the weeds that
Now, you basically have a sterile seed bed. Remember, each time you till, you bring up new weed seeds.

After we waited for about 2 to 3 hours the next step is to add compost on top of the sterile seed bed. This way we are building soil vs. breaking it down by tilling. Then we plant the crop in the composted organic matter.

The chickens were on the same ground all winter, dropping their manure, scratching and spreading it around. The soil underneath the compost has plenty of natural fertilizer because the chickens.  They were also digging through the soil and eating grubs and other bugs. This is what chickens love to do. Our chickens are vital to our farm, they also helped make the compost we use for our gardens.
Spread compost 1 to 2
inches thick with
garden rake

No excuse not to have a garden this year. You don't need a tiller, cultivators or other big tools to make a garden. Now you have a no till garden, so I would challenge you to grow a little food for your family. Plant things you love to eat. If you don't have chickens put a dark colored tarp down on the spot you want a garden on. Then leave it for 3 weeks, uncover it and let the weeds start to come up again. Then, take the torch to it, this is the fun part for me. It's that easy, now you have a garden and you didn't have to break your back trying to dig up the back yard. Good luck!

Jason Smith
Homesteader and Market Gardener
YouTube Channel:

Friday, April 5, 2019

It's about to happen

Something extraordinary is about to happen. After a long cold, wet winter, nature is coming back to life. Spring is an exciting time for gardeners and homesteaders. For us, it means we don't have to keep the wood stove burning as much, so we don't have to keep up with the fire wood and cleaning out the ashes. That makes my daughter really happy.

The crops we overwintered in our greenhouse are starting to take off and we are thrilled to have warmer days. This time of year can be challenging also, raccoons, foxes and coyotes are now prowling around which means our chickens have to be extra careful. We do everything we can to protect them but if they fly over the electric fencing we have, they become vulnerable, and believe me a fox will outsmart chicken even on a bad day.

We have been planting radishes, salad mix, salad turnips, beets, pac choy, brussel sprouts and other leafy greens. These cool season crops thrive in the warm days and cool nights.
Salad mix with row covers
for protection on cold nights
We have started peppers and tomatoes in our greenhouse but it will be a couple weeks before we set those out. I'm tempted to to set out a few early plants but I know what will happen if I set these out too early. Frost will get them. Our last frost date here in Middle TN is May 1. We patiently wait for May 1, then we have to juggle rain showers. Is the ground too wet, is it too dry to plant? When we catch the weather right we jump all over the opportunity to plant our food.

Pac choy planted with
compost spread around
Our trees in our orchard are coming to life and we are hoping we don't get a late frost, so our peach trees will not lose their blooms. If those get bit by a hard frost then we will not get peaches this year. Our pear trees have seemed to do the best with the exception of last year because we had a really late hard freeze. But previous years, we had amazing pears.

The garden is an extraordinary place on the homestead, it represents life, hope and challenges that await. It's a place where we can make money by harvesting and selling niche crops. Its also a place where failure is always lurking and one wrong move could mean death to the crop for that year. That's heartbreaking, because sometimes you only get one chance per year to get it right, otherwise you have to wait for next year. A lot of life lessons can be learned in the garden. If you have too many weeds in your garden, your plants will suffer and eventually succumb to pressure. Isn't that true with life?

This time of year is very inspiring and you don't have to look far for encouragement. Just take time and observe nature, walk outside and listen for birds. Take a moment and just watch them, don't think about anything else except nature. Spring is here and let's celebrate!

Jason Smith
Homesteader and Market Gardener
YouTube Channel:

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Homesteading: Staying Healthy!

Staying healthy is the most important thing you can do for yourself, your family
and your homestead. If you are not healthy, then nothing else matters. Take a
hard look at what you are putting in your body. You are either feeding disease
or good health.

Megan and I don’t want to depend on western medicine. Prescription drugs
don’t cure illness, they only help us cope with the disease. You have to find the
root cause of the disease and most of the time it's probably lifestyle choices.
In the corporate world, it's easy to get caught up in the hype of going out,
drinking and eating with co-workers. Make wise choices when these situations
occur. Bad eating choices lead to health problems, which leads to dependency
on pharmaceutical companies and doctors.

Homesteading is about self sufficiency, right? The least you could do is take
care of yourself. Your family and homestead need you to be healthy. Look, I’m
not saying western medicine is bad. But take more holistic approach.  I mean,
if you fall down and break your arm, obviously you need to do see a doctor.
My point is don’t put stuff in your body that makes you sick. We weren’t born
craving skittles, tobacco and alcohol. You don’t need these things to live.

I think the problem in the English culture is that people just want to take a pill
and they think the problems will go away. Instead of finding more natural
methods to deal with pain and whatever is ailing you. I’m not saying, never
have a beer or glass of wine, but limit it. Don’t do it every day. Maybe one
time per month. And I don’t mean sit down and drink an entire bottle of wine
at one time. A glass or two at most.

I cringe every time I see someone post a study claiming it’s good for you to
drink wine or beer every night. Everyone's genetic makeup is different I get it,
but I highly doubt consuming alcohol daily is healthy. You need to feel good,
mentally and physically to get projects accomplished on your homestead.
You need to be able to think through processes quickly then have the energy
to actually perform the labor.

Each homestead is very different so, no book can give you all the answers.
Your homestead will not succeed if you are run down, tired and not healthy.

Jason Smith
Homesteader and Market Gardener
YouTube Channel:

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

GMOs, Salt, Sugar, Meat, Dairy??

Which one sucks, and which is bad for you? I'm not a scientist that studies food and the effects of GM (genetically modified), Salt, Sugar and Dairy. I guess the jury is still out on these things in our food but I do know that a plant based diet makes me feel amazing and I have energy throughout the entire day. I don't get tired and sleepy at 2 or 3 o'clock in the afternoon. I think it's common sense that plants promote good health. Fruits and vegetables are good for you, it's that simple.

Here is my issue with our food system and the crap they are putting in our food. The food we buy changed without us even really knowing or even sharing our opinion. Why would we think its okay to add a bunch of processed sugar and salt into our food to make it taste good? Maybe its because the food companies want you to become addicted to what they are selling you? If you keep buying it then they have control over you. Most people that consume sugary/salty foods are probably addicted and don't even realize it. They think, well, this is my reward for a hard days work or putting up with someones BS they work with.

We need more transparency in our food labels. I mean have you looked at a label lately? You need a PhD. in Food Science to read those. How is the average person supposed to make sense of all that stuff? Maybe they should make a label system with green, yellow and red. green = good, yellow = caution, red = this shit will kill you if you eat too much. I don't particularly care to be the food industry's guinea pig. So, we chose to eat differently.

I recently read a study that Kellogg's invited in Michael Moss, author of Salt, Sugar, Fat to try some of their most popular foods without the salt, and the foods tasted terrible. One of the executives even described the food as tasting like metal. Do you think its intentional that food companies are injecting our food with salt and sugar? I wonder if the executives of these companies would even eat this stuff?

Those candy bars, potato chips and sodas are not only addictive but they are making people sick with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and low sex drive. Obviously, high blood pressure and high cholesterol lead to heart disease which kills you before you get to enjoy retirement.  The industrial food system is controlled by a handful of companies and do you think they are looking out for the best interest of the general public or profits? Hey look, I love capitalism and I love making money, but do you think these mega companies give a hoot about the average consumer? I doubt it, they answer to shareholders and boards. If it increases the bottom line then they do it. Choose wisely when you are buying food.

Jason Smith
Marketing Gardener, Farmer

Monday, May 28, 2018

Why organic gardening is awesome!

I have done both and trust me raising food organically vs. with chemicals is much simpler. Personally, I think growing food using chemicals is a sign of weakness, laziness and it means the soil is unhealthy. 
Organically grow baby romaine
When your soil is healthy you invite beneficial insects and bacteria. Over time, they come and help your garden. I see this year after year in my garden. Honestly, the first year we started it was a real struggle. Nevertheless, it has gotten a lot better each year.

When you garden organically you are partnering with nature. Most conventional farms are trying to beat or destroy nature with pesticides, herbicides and insecticide.  Over time, these chemicals breakdown the structure of the soil leaving it depleted of minerals vital for growing nutrient dense food. What also happens is after a good rain, the run off from the conventional farmers fields that has been fertilized gets into our streams, rivers, then lakes. If you live here in middle Tennessee, then you may notice the huge algae blooms in our area lakes. These algae blooms are feeding off the fertilizer being dumped into the fields that find their way to our waterways.

Weeds and insects become immune to the chemicals sprayed over time, much like we become immune to different strands of the cold. Weeds and insects adapt. That forces the conventional farmer to rely on the chemical salesman to come up with some new chemical harsher than the last since the weeds and insects have become immune to the same chemicals being sprayed year after year. We grew food long before chemicals.  Not sure why we need chemicals to aid us now. I hear this comment all the time... "well, we need to feed the world."

Here is the reality of the US, feeding the world. Today, we only export 20 percent of the food we produce in the US. Of that 20 percent, 19 percent goes to countries like India, China and Korea, where they have an upcoming more affluent middle class. We are exporting beef, chicken and pork. So, its not like we are feeding the hungry. One percent of our exports goes to countries that are hungry and actually need food. That's not necessarily the US's fault, most of it is political from within that countries government.  Nevertheless, some countries choose not to eat the food produced in the US from our big industrial agriculture system. Do you blame them? 

Jason Smith
Farmer, Market Gardener