2021 Year in Review

Our daughter holding our Spitzhauben hen next to a slice of Baby Doll watermelon. These are the moments we cherish.

2021 is over and I suppose I was so busy living life that I forgot to document much about the farm. I can confidently say that 2021 was the most productive growing season we’ve had so far. We were able to grow many new varieties and succeed in areas where we previously failed. We spent a lot of time improving the property last year but we still have a lot to do in 2022. I’d like to share some pictures of some of the bright spots in 2021. We’ve already received a few shipments of seeds this year so we’re preparing for success and growth this year. I’ll share more with you as the happy season approaches.

Bull’s Blood and Golden Beets.

Unfortunately our beet bed was attacked by leaf miners this year so no greens for us. This year I will bring n some parasitic wasps to help us deal with the leaf miners. Of the two varieties I think golden beets taste the best. Diced and sauteed in butter these two beets were delicious!

Scarlet Nantes and Golden Uzbek Carrots

We grew 3 types of carrots this year, Golden Uzbek, Scarlet Nantes, and Longue Rouge Sang (not pictured). We only picked a few of the LRS carrots and they were small which is strange because the rest of the carrots did great. I think we had 8-10 lbs. of finished carrots which was great. The Uzbeks tasted ok but the Nantes were sweet and perfect. In 2020 we couldn’t grow a carrot to save our lives. I contribute the new found success to better timing, growing in raised beds, and sprouting the carrots under boards. Thanks to Jess at Roots and Refuge Farm on youtube for the sprouting tip!

Mary Washington Asparagus
Trimming asparagus and mulching the bed in early winter.

As shown in our 2021 Seed Starting post we started asparagus from seed this year. Of course this takes longer than starting asparagus crowns but that isn’t as fun as starting from a tiny seed. What I found surprising was all of the extra baby plants that came up around the starts as the season progressed. We used some string to support the taller plants. In the last image you can see my son trimming the tops off yellowing asparagus. We covered this part of the bed with 3-4″ of chopped leaf mulch to help the plants over-winter. We hope to grow more perennials this year so we start seeing a few food producing plants coming back each year.

Suyo Long Cucumber. A very prolific and tasty variety.
Immature Okinawan white bitter melon (Jyunpaku)
Nearly ready to pick!

We finally built an arch. It is attached to 2 / 8′ x 2.5′ x 8″ raised beds on either side. This year we grew lots of Suyo Long Cucumbers on the left and a few white bitter melon on the left with a few zinnias for fun. This spring we will build a proper chicken fence and the gateway will be placed at the end of this arch. We’re not done yet!

A farm first, fresh basil turned into pesto for some lovely winter pasta.

Green Arrow Peas
Various cherry tomatoes
Soy beans (Edamame)
Our new hens started laying so we have a few new colors.

Here are a few pictures of some wonderful produce from our farm last year.

This is another farm first, we have bulbing onions this year! These yellow spanish onions grew fairly tall but the bulbs were small. I wonder if it has anything to do with our massive squash shading them out. I guess I’ll plant them next to short crops next year. We’re still grateful for the harvest! We chopped and froze most of them to eat over the winter. Last year we bought onions from home depot but they never gave us bulbs. Growing from seed I can start them early enough and plant any type of onions I want.

Rainbow Quinoa

This heart shaped pile of quinoa is probably 4-5″ across. After processing this was all there was from over a dozen plants. I gained an appreciation of what it takes to process these tiny seeds. It makes me think differently when I see a bag of quinoa at Costco for $10 that’s for sure! I noticed quite a few beetles on the plants as I was breaking them down so perhaps that impacted the harvest. For the amount of space used this was the lowest performer on the farm. Did you know quinoa seed is a pseudocereal along with amaranth and buckwheat? It isn’t a true grain. I also read that quinoa is gluten free. One thing I liked about growing quinoa is the coloration of the plants. I certainly enjoy experimenting with new crops so even a failure can be fun and interesting.

Autumn beauty sunflower
Evening sun sunflower
Evening sun sunflower
Evening sun sunflower, notice the wide variation in this type.
Dried Titan sunflower heads
Nature has a way of ensuring the next generation. Look at all those seeds.
Our first time baking our own sunflower seeds. They are delicious!

We grew a lot of sunflowers this year! I didn’t get a picture of the titan sunflowers but they were 9-10 feet tall which was amazing to witness. We will grow even more types of sunflowers this year. Some people think sunflowers are so basic but I really love all of the varieties that are possible. I just bought some chocolate cherry sunflower seeds for next year and I can’t wait to see them.

Farm goal achieved! We grew enough ground cherries to make some jam. From 5 plants we actually had way more than we needed. We let the chickens clean up the bed so we don’t end up with dozens of baby plants this season. We’re planting tomatoes in that bed this year. Yes the jam is delicious. We used a jam mix that doesn’t require cooking and froze the rest.

More preserving. We grew tomatoes this year but ate them all during the season so we bought some Roma tomatoes and peaches from a roadside stand for canning. Its a lot of work but worth it.

Baby doll watermelon is finally ripe!
Jarrahdale pumpkins from Australia. These are the first pumpkins we’ve grown!
12 Lbs.
Apple Gourds

We laid down some pavers to create a sitting area south of the arch. You’ll see it finished later this year.

Will rogers zinnia
Dahlia the we bought from a local greenhouse.
Candy cane zinnia
Candyfloss Cosmos

I used to be the type of farmer who wasn’t interested in growing non-edibles. Now I see beauty and pollinators bring a farm to life.

Mid-season. The grass is coming in nicely. By next season it will all be seeded.
The season is over

Boy this was a long post. We hope you enjoyed the review. Feel free to ask questions about anything you see here. I hope you are as excite as I am for the next growing season! Before I go let me leave you with this quick video my Father shot with his drone last year. You can see the grass wasn’t coming up quite yet but a month later it started filling in.

She is the reason our garden works

Codi holding the first 2020 Cabbage

I have a confession to make. I love gardening but I don’t actually garden. You might be thinking that sounds strange since I write a gardening blog. The truth is I make my wife do everything in the garden while I supervise. Although we both spend nearly the same amount of time out by the garden I let her do all the digging and bending over. She’s better at that sort of thing anyway. I just love watching her sweat while I wait for those beautiful squash to grow. There are few things in this world as nice as sautéed yellow squash on a summer evening. The best part is I don’t even have to cook it! Before you head to the comments with an angry comment I need to let you in on something. For the last dozen years I’ve been living life in a wheelchair. Hopefully that lowers your blood pressure after reading this far. I have Muscular Dystrophy so my movement in the garden is limited. My chair doesn’t fit between the rows anyway. One day we will have enough room to build raised beds with paved spaces for my wheelchair but not yet. Just because I’m in a wheelchair doesn’t mean I can’t be involved in the gardening process. Having a wife who loves to garden as much as I do certainly helps me experience the joys of gardening. I couldn’t manage a large garden by myself that’s for sure. I’m grateful to her for all of the things and extra things she does for me. She’s stronger than she knows. The garden is OUR happy place.

So what in the world do I do if I never enter the garden itself? RESEARCH. I read and watch a lot of video about gardening. I suppose you could say I’m kind of like the conductor at Singing Squash Farm. When things go wrong in the garden you can usually blame me or our chickens for it. I’m happy to take on that role. Codi loves to make things happen and see the results of her efforts. And we both love to eat fresh vegetables. I  think one of the things that has made our 18+ year marriage so strong is our ability to embrace the roles we are best suited to. If it’s very clear one of us is better suited to something why would we fight it? I would love to work side by side with her but until I can I fully embrace my role. I am the one who tirelessly hits refresh on the Baker Creek web site waiting for that special winter squash seed to show “in-stock”. I am the one who throws down my hat when my corn doesn’t get pollinated. If I ask Codi about soil moisture content again she might just throw it at me from the garden. I try not to let things get to that point. When it’s 90 degrees and you’ve been working in the garden for two hours the last thing you want to experience is a guy sitting on my side of the fence sipping lemonade asking if that spacing was correct. At the end of the day we both sit on this side of the fence listening to our squash sing. Gardening is full of ups and downs but it’s worth the effort. If you are drawn to growing your own food or even a flower garden don’t let fear of failure stop you. You can do it!

2020 yellow squash and eggplant the chickens missed

Have you seen the price of wood lately?

7 new raised beds waiting for compost

Our little farm looks a little depressing without any plants in it. This day turned out to be the coldest day of the fall season. Wind was the main problem. Sometimes you just have to work with what you have. We are so excited for the 2021 season that we built these beds now. Well that wasn’t the only reason. Even though we used non-treated Douglas Fir these 8″ garden beds, a few 4″x4″x10′ posts to cut down to be used as corner reinforcement, and high quality coated 3″ deck screws cost about $550 including tax. We purchased the materials in November 2020. Our good friends picked them up with their trailer so this price does not include delivery. Home Depot would have delivered for $80 extra. Each bed is 3′ x 16′. It might have made more sense to wait until spring to buy the materials since the wood will be exposed to the elements for no good reason. I plan to order a few tarps to help increase the life of our beds. My main concern with waiting until spring to build beds is that the materials might cost even more. I’ll check back with you in the spring to let you know if it was worth the gamble. I wanted 10″ tall beds but that was too much money. In a few of the beds we will dig down a little before adding compost. Some crops need a little more depth such as tomatoes and carrots. This was a compromise that I think makes sense. We are located in northern Utah, USA for reference. We had a temporary fence around our 2020 garden to keep chickens out. Now the garden is open for them to run around and enrich the soil. We’ll build a more permanent hog panel fence next spring. Here is an image of our garden in August of this year.

This was just after we hung the lights up. We spent many warm and relaxing moments sitting under the stars enjoying our garden. One evening we invited some friends over and roasted yellow squash over the fire pit. Marshmallows are OK now and then but fresh cut squash slices roasted over the fire with our friends and kids under a full moon was a night I will always remember. Don’t get me wrong, if we had marshmallows the kids would have preferred them but we might have missed out on a real treat. Sometimes going without something is an invitation to blessings you weren’t expecting. You might be wondering why we have a blue door leaning against the fence in the image at the top of this page. That is what remains of our last garden from 2013. I couldn’t bring myself to throw that door away so now it’s a decoration. I think bringing elements from old gardens into our new garden will be a fun tradition to adopt. We extended our garden boundaries quite a bit this year but we really enjoyed the process. We harvested about 70 squash from 4 plants this season. Our yellow squash produced much less than our zucchini. I’m really excited to see how our raised beds improve production next year. P.S. that watermelon on the lower left of our 2020 garden image actually ended up spreading out a lot and producing many little watermelons as well as one watermelon with a delicious red center. This plant was added late after we had a few crops fail. I’m glad we tried. What crop did you add as a backup plan that did well for you this year?

UPDATE 1/15/2021 – WE HAVE COMPOST! A big truck just dumped 8 cu. yards of green compost on our driveway. We had a slight miscalculation on the compost footprint. We folded it in half 😉 Since it was such a nice day (low 40’s) Codi and the boys loaded up the new beds. I decided to get it now to avoid any supply issues later in the season. Maybe Covid turned me into a better or more anxious planner. Since it had already been breaking down for a few months in a much larger pile it was still warm. The company I bought it from said they would deliver it the day after I called them and for a good price. I also asked about topsoil for the rest of the yard but that was still frozen.

Compost over 100 F in January! It will be ready when we need it.
Almost full!
We even had extra compost for this Zinnia/Ground Cherry bed as well as the front flower beds. Look at the color difference. We live in the high desert.

In case you were wondering the load cost me $200 delivered from Tuckers in Utah. We’ll be top dressing the beds with chicken manure and a few other soil amendments so the beds aren’t completely full. Plus the compost has settled a bit since January. Our chickens have been wandering all over the beds all winter as well so I’m sure that will add to the soil fertility.

UPDATE 3/15/21 – I decided to look up how much this project would have cost me today and we saved nearly $90 building these in 11/2020. Gardening win! I’m learning that looking ahead to the next season is very important thing to do. This time we saved financially.