Archive | May 2014

The Big, Bad House Projects List Part Two

Here’s the exterior list. It’s not quite as long, but many of these are much bigger (not to mention more expensive) projects than those on the interior list.

We’ll get it all done someday. The kids may be in college first, but hey, better late than never, right?

Pressure wash siding

Repair holes in siding

Repair fascia

Paint front door

Paint front porch

Paint shutters

Paint porch railings

Paint foundation(?)

Install proper doors on crawlspaces

Extend downspout in the back

Add gutters and downspouts all around

Finish back porch

Paint back porch

Paint wooden fence

Cap chimney

Fix fence

Plant trees


What’s Growing on the Homestead: Amish Paste Tomatoes

I started this series with a nightshade, so I’m going to continue with them for a while.

One of the tomatoes we’re growing this year is known as Amish Paste. It’s an heirloom paste tomato that gets to be about 8-12 oz and is known for having very few seeds. It’s also registered in the Slow Food Ark of Taste. The plants are indeterminate.

I’m not normally a fan of red tomatoes straight, but I’m hoping I like this one. We use a lot of canned tomatoes around here in the winter, mostly in soups, so I’m hoping to get a good crop. I’ve never grown this variety before. Thus far, the plants are doing fairly well. They’ve been slightly effected by early blight, but are merrily growing anyway, so they have at least some resistance. I’ll update on them later this year.

Here’s a picture, copied from the seed company’s website. I got these seeds from Sow True Seeds in Asheville, North Carolina.



The Big, Bad House Project List Part One

Here it is, the list of projects we need to complete to have our fixer-upper farmhouse up to date.  Some of these have to be done, while others are just things I want to do. It will take us a while, and it will be a long time before we get to some of the things that are optional, such as replacing the kitchen counters. The list is so long I’ve broken it up into two pieces. Here is the interior list; the exterior list will follow later.

Living Room

Paint walls

Paint trim

Replace side-wall window

Paint door

Change the ceiling

Extend the hearth

Install and paint floor trim

Replace the heater

Replace the storm door

Build built-ins

Dining Room

Paint trim

Install and paint floor trim

Change the ceiling

Install a new light fixture

Remove door to Teagan’s Room


Remove wallpaper

Paint walls

Install backsplash

Replace kitchen counter

Replace stove

Replace floors

Replace windows

Laundry Room

Repair ceiling

Repair hot water heater (eventually replace hot water heater)

Replace flooring

Build storage

Repair porch light

Fix the dryer vent


Replace window

Replace toilet

Replace tub

Tile tub surround

Replace floor

Paint walls

Paint cabinet

Install and paint trim

Install bead board

Replace shower head

Patch tub


Replace heater

Refinish or replace floors

Install and paint floor trim

Paint walls

Master Bedroom

Install and paint floor trim

Replace ceiling

Replace windows

Tear out and replace closet

Teagan’s Room

Install and paint floor trim

Replace window

Finish shelves

Install door

Third Bedroom

Possibly replace windows (or get them to open)

Paint walls

Replace flooring

Install and paint floor and ceiling trim

Install drywall in closet

Add ceiling fan


Replace window

Install radiant barrier

Install insulation


Insulate the whole downstairs

Upgrade the electrical wiring (add switches and light plates to all rooms)

Upgrade the plumbing

What’s Growing on the Homestead: Red Pontiac Potatoes

I thought I would take advantage of a cold and rainy day to start a new series. Each of these posts will feature a plant we currently have growing here at LBF. I’m going to kick it off with one of the plants I’m most excited about: Irish potatoes.

Potatoes are incredibly easy to grow in most climates and give you a lot of food bang for your effort and expense. One pound of seed potatoes can produce up to 10 pounds of eating potatoes. That’s a lot of return for your investment. They are a good source of nutrients and are very calorie dense. These are the two primary reasons potatoes have long been grown as a subsistence crop in much of the world. Plus, they are dang good eating. I come from a Irish family, so I’ve eaten potatoes in every manner possible.

Unfortunately, potatoes don’t grow well in the Deep South. They don’t handle the combination of high heat and higher humidity very well and are prone to any number of fungal diseases and insect attacks. Sweet potatoes are traditionally substituted for them in the summer garden. It is possible to get a spring crop in if you plant early and get good weather. I’ve never tried it, but we decided to take the plunge this year and we must be having beginner’s luck, because the plants are growing great.

You can choose from dozens, if not hundreds, of different varieties. We chose Red Pontiac potatoes. This is a pretty red potato with white flesh. It’s great for mashing and is a good storage variety. Here’s a picture of the spuds, snagged from the seed company we ordered the seed potatoes from.


Hmm. I can’t wait to eat them.

We’re growing them using the hilling method. We cut the seed potatoes up, buried them under a few inches of soil, and then hilled dirt around them when they were about 18 inches tall, then hilled then again with straw when they’d grown another foot. We’ve only watered them once since planting; Mother Nature has done the rest. They started flowering yesterday, so it won’t be long before the tubers size up, the vines die back, and it’s time to harvest.

I can’t wait!

Summer Comes to Laughing Bird Farm

Summer has finally arrived. This will be our first summer on the homestead, and I am really looking forward to it.

I know, I know, the calendar says it is still spring for another month and a half, but let’s face it, spring lasts about two weeks here in the south. Okay, this year it lasted about six weeks, but you get the point. I don’t measure the arrival of summer by the calendar anyway, or by the thermometer (which reached 87 here today), but by something much more mundane: the return of the mosquitoes.

The first of the little bloodsuckers showed up again last night, which means it really is summer. It also means it’s time to break out the long sleeves in the evening, the repellents, and the Bt dunks. Ah, the joys of being outdoors in the summer.

Something new is always happening here our homestead. Today our potatoes started blooming. I managed to get one decent picture.

Potato Flower

Pretty, isn’t it?

Speaking of pretty things, I was knocking down weeds on the side of the house when I discovered the vine pictured below has taken over the chain link fence that separates our neighbor’s property from ours up in the front. This vine is vetch, and it is quite pretty in bloom, but it is also very invasive. The good news is that it also fixed nitrogen. I prefer to look on the bright side.


The entire fence is covered in it. I’m going to have to rip it out and replace it with something more appropriate. I’m thinking morning gloried and moonflowers for quick screening this year, and possibly clematis in the long run.

I got our corn in today. This was the flour corn; I’ll plant the popcorn in a couple more weeks. I also planted sunflowers, collard, and a heat tolerant lettuce, and transplanted the two butternut squash plants we were given. I’m going to let them run through the corn and make a three sisters style planting.

Life is good!

Weekly Farm Status Update 5/11/14 (and a great mother’s day gift)

A lot has been happening around the homestead this week. The garden is exploding. I’ll get to all of that in a moment. First, baby T gave us the most amazing Mother’s Day gift in the world: she took her first step! She’s been getting close to it for a while, and she’s tried all weekend, and finally she did it. She promptly fell down of course, but wow! What a day to start walking!

Ok, now for the farm stuff.

Our First Market Day

Laughing Bird Farm’s first farmer’s market was a success. Not a huge success, but a success nonetheless. We learned a lot and made about $100 which is nothing to sneeze at, especially given our distinct lack of product. Here’s some of the lessons we learned:

  • Signage and displays are key. We need to work on these before next month.
  • We need more product. The booth needs to look full.
  • The kids need to wait to come out until after it starts to cool off. (I know, this one should have been obvious.)
  • Disposable tablecloths do not work well for the kind of products we have. We’ll pick up some vinyl ones before next month.
  • Most important of all, we learned how NOT to pack fresh herbs. Not that we had that many to begin with, but I ruined them all by packaging them in plastic baggies. I thought they’d be okay despite the heat and humidity. Not. I’ll do some research into the best way to package them before next month.

I forgot to take pictures, unfortunately. We were just too busy. I’ll try to snap a few next month.

What’s growing in the garden

A little bit of everything! It’s really popping. The corn’s not in yet, but the plot is mostly ready, and the seeds will go in on Tuesday or Thursday of this week. Here’s a list of the current crops:

  • Lots of herbs including basil, sage, lemon balm, cilantro, parsley, thyme, and peppermint.
  • Potatoes (see pictures below)
  • Radishes
  • Pole Beans
  • Lima Beans

The potatoes are really growing fast. They were first hilled just  8 days ago. Take a look at this picture of one of them I took tonight.


Yep -they had to be hilled again. This time I used straw instead of dirt. I’ll see how it works. And one of them is starting to flower.

It won’t be long now!

The Orchard

Our fruit trees and berry bushes are mostly doing well, with the exception of the Pineapple Pear tree, which has never leafed out. I’m reluctantly calling it a loss. I’ll contact the nursery for a replacement sometime next month.

Check this out, though. I discovered tonight that our peach tree tried to set fruit this year. I knew it bloomed, but this was the first time I found a sign of fruit.


There were several of these, and since the tree is too young to bear, I pulled them all off.

What’s waiting to be transplanted

Quite a lot, actually.

  • Lots of herbs
  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers, both hot and sweet
  • Tomatillos
  • Eggplants
  • Swiss chard
  • Butternut Squash (a gift)
  • Zucchini (also a gift)


We’ve got 16 days until our chickens arrive. I guess I better get started on, ur that is finish, the coop. I’ll leave it to you to decide which one is the true statement. 😉

Until next time, happy gardening and homesteading. And happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there!

It’s market day!

Today is our first ever farmer’s market! To market, to market, to market we go!

I’ll have pictures and such tomorrow.

Oh, and we have only 18 days left until our chickens arrive. Next week I have to start building the chicken coop.

Weekly Farm Status 5-5-14

Clearly, regular posting did not resume last week. I’m aiming to change that this week. I thought I’d start with a weekly farm status update since it’s been a while. Here’s what’s going on.

-The potatoes survived! Every single slip I planted came up. I had given up on them. Then I walked into the garden one day last week and BAM! There they all were. Here’s a pic.

Potato Plant

They’ve since been hilled, of course.

-The herbs are thriving, all but the dill and one of the cilantro plants, which got eaten by something (no, the fence still isn’t finished).

-All of the raspberries are up, and all of the trees have leafed out except the one pear tree. I’m still crossing my fingers, but I don’t have a lot of hope left.

-All the transplants will go in the ground this week, and so will the corn, sunflower, and squash seeds.

And here’s what’s coming up:

-Our first market is Thursday! Yay! We’ll be selling mostly homemade soaps and wild greens, along with some rosemary plants.

-Our chickens come in 21 days. I can’t wait!