A Mother’s Day Gift for the Avid Gardener

DISCLOSURE: This post may contain affiliate links from which I will earn a commission which is of no extra cost to you.

Looking for a great gift for your gardening mom, wife, or mother-in-law? Sometimes this can be a tough decision. I know there are a lot of great gifts like gloves, seeds, a tool kit, etc., but sometimes these things can be overdone. Well, I found one that is really useful and she can use it for years to come.

We got my mother-in-law, who is an avid garden with three very large vegetable gardens and flowers everywhere, this Tractor Scoot.

She uses it when she’s working with her flower beds and weeding flowers and gardens. It helps her back because she’s able to keep it straight when weeding instead of hunch over from her feet. Not to mention, she’s not on her knees when using it either.

The tractor scoot we got for her came with a handle for pulling it around and a basket in the back which will hold a large bucket and/or supplies. There is also storage space under the seat. The seat also swivels to turn the direction you need to work in.

Here’s another that is similar…

You can get one on Amazon just in time for Mother’s Day! I know I’m hoping for one of my own! What are you getting for the gardener in your life on Mother’s Day?

FOIL?!? In the GARDEN?!?! One Way to Plant Broccoli

So, let’s be honest…my broccoli plants did NOT do well last year. As I’ve explained in my homesteading story, my garden was maybe half as successful as I would have liked it to have been. But, I digress…

Broccoli is a good cool-weather crop, so it helped ease my gardening bug a bit to get it into my garden and planning is everything. So, I have made better plans for my garden this year.

My mother-in-law has been growing broccoli pretty successfully for years now and I am taking a cue from her. So, here’s what I’m doing this year…

I found a spot in my garden that is shaded some in the morning but gets plenty of sun as the day goes on. I tilled (adding in some garden soil and compost) this year, since I moved my garden in hopes of a more bountiful harvest. This also should help with the drainage since our ground can be wet.

Before planting my seedlings, I took them out of their containers and wrapped them with…wait for it…FOIL! Yes, I mean aluminum foil! My mother-in-law does it to help keep these nasty things away…

They’re called cabbage root worms and they will kill your plant.

I pinch the very bottom couple of leaves off of the seedling and wrap a bit of the stem and try to leave a collar at the base to keep these pesky worms from ruining my broccoli harvest. Old Farmer’s Almanac also says you can use cardboard collars to do the same. I like the idea of the foil because it covers some of the stem as well.

 

I spaced my plants about 18 inches apart and rows about 12 inches apart. I planted three rows of six plants, made a two foot walkway and planted another three rows. Yes, I broke out the measuring tape and even a rope line to try to keep things straight and even…

When planting, it is also a good idea to add compost or manure to each plant. Once my seedlings were planted, I surrounded them with newspaper, three layers thick and straw mulch. This will help keep the ground cool and moist. Here’s how it looked when I was finished…

Once the plant has a good stalk, the foil can be removed.

Happy planting! Let me know how you do your broccoli!

My Chicken Saga…

We got our first flock about a year and a half ago. Six chicks is what my husband brought home. Six Rhode Island White chicks to be exact.

We had six, that is, until our dog got ahold of them. Poor babies…and lesson learned.

So, we were down to four, which we raised successfully. And then we realized…one of those chicks was a rooster. We weren’t expecting it, but we rolled with it.

Everything was good, and then we decided to add to our flock. This time four Rhode Island Reds. They were about 10 months old and laying.

It took some time for them to get used to each other but things finally worked out.

And, then, it happened…I saw cuts on my white hens. Where did they come from?

Turns out, Puff Daddy the rooster (lovingly named because he would puff out his feathers) was the culprit. In fact, I saw it with my own eyes. He mounted, then his “feet” slipped, and his claws cut my hens.

Not long before this discovery, Puff Daddy made his first step toward the freezer when we were cleaning the coop one day. My husband went in to get the chickens out so we could give the coop a good once over, and that dang rooster jumped on top of his head…luckily he was wearing a hat.

Needless to say, between the two events, Puff Daddy had sealed his fate.
Yep…chicken dinner…

Life was good again, for a little while. Then my smallest white hen passed on. I’m still not quite sure if it was the Reds picking on her or if something else happened. I was sad. But, we moved on and life was back to normal.

We have since decided to start trying to make some money off our land and animals. With that in mind, we got more chicks and decided to build second a coop from pallets.

Eight chicks is what we ended up with. When I got them, the breeds were mixed together, but I ended up with mostly Black Astralorps and one of which I am unsure of its breed. After some research, I was pleased to see Astralorps are supposed to be excellent producers, so I can’t wait until they start laying!

Never thinking I would ever own chickens or be starting a farm/homestead life, I have truly enjoyed my hens and am excited about our new flock, too!

What kind of experiences have you had with your chickens? Please, share!

 

 

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Homemade Chicken ‘n’ Dumplings

 

INGREDIENTS:
2-3 chicken breasts
Water to cover chicken in the pot up to about half of the pot
1 c chicken broth, more if desired
3 c flour
1 c flour to keep to the side
2 Tbsp. Morton Nature’s Seasons Seasoning Blend
2 Tbsp. shortening
¾-1 c milk

 

 

COOKING INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Put the chicken, water, and chicken broth into the pot and boil for 30-45 minutes. Pull them from the broth when they are done and set aside both the chicken and the broth. DO NOT DUMP THE BROTH!
2. While the chicken is boiling, take the three cups of flour, put it into a mixing bowl, and whisk in 1 tablespoon of the seasoning blend until thoroughly combined.
3. Cut in the shortening and mix, preferably by hand, until the flour appears crumbly:


4. Now, slowly add the milk and combine until the dough forms (it is all combined and can be picked up in a ball):


5. Prep your cutting board by sprinkling some of that extra cup of flour on it and spreading it around. Prep your roller by rubbing some flour on it as well.
6. Put the dough on the cutting board and slightly roll it out. Divide the dough into two pieces (I use a pizza cutter) and set one half aside:


7. Roll out the first half until the dough is about 1/8 in. thick and then cut into the size pieces you desire. As you go, put the cut pieces into the bowl and toss them with some flour:


8. REPEAT 6 & 7 for the second half of dough. Then mix in remaining flour with your dumplings and set them aside.
9. Now, go back to your chicken breasts and shred them for your meal while you bring the broth back to a rolling boil. Set the chicken aside again once it’s shredded:


10. Once the broth is at a rolling boiling, add the other tablespoon of seasoning blend and start adding the dumplings. Put some in and stir and wait for them to “float” and then add some more. Keep going until all of the dumplings are added.
11. Cook them for about 5 minutes and then add in the chicken. Turn the heat down and let it simmer for 30-45 minutes or until the dumplings reach YOUR desired texture.

**If needed, you can also add more water or broth if you feel it becomes too thick. Also, make sure you taste-test and season to taste!**

SERVE … EAT… ENJOY!!!

Don’t forget to let me know what you think!

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My Meatloaf Recipe…

I was searching for something new to cook for my family and found this meatloaf recipe ( 1770 House Meatloaf ). I tried it and we really liked it! As always, though, I like to tweak and experiment with new recipes until I get them just how I like them.

My husband was curious what it would taste like with venison and I wanted to try something different with a couple of the ingredients and the sauce. After doing this a few times, I came up with a mix that my whole family loves! Here it is:



MEATLOAF RECIPE

INGREDIENTS:
2 lbs. meat
2 cups of panko (add more if desired)
1 tbsp. chives
1 tbsp. parsley
1 tbsp. Italian herbs (I use McCormick’s Italian herb mix)
½-1 tbsp. kosher or sea salt (to taste)
1 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
2 eggs
½ cup milk (add more if needed)
1 onion chopped
1-2 stalks of celery chopped
1 tbsp. olive oil

SAUCE:
Put the following ingredients in a bowl, microwave for 30-45 seconds, and mix together then set aside:
2 tbsp. butter
2-3 minced garlic cloves
1 tbsp. Italian herbs
1 tsp. parsley

COOKING INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a pan with parchment paper and set aside.
2. Saute’ onions and celery with olive oil for 10-15 minutes and set aside.
3. In a bowl, mix meat with chives, parsley, herbs, salt, and black pepper. Add in eggs and milk then mix thoroughly.
4. Mix in onions and celery. Slowly add in the panko, mixing until everything is moist.
5. Place meat onto the lined pan and shape into an evenly distributed loaf. Evenly pour/brush sauce onto the surface of the loaf.
6. Bake for 40-50 minutes and let cool for 5 minutes. Slice, serve, and enjoy!

I promise to add pictures soon…I really hope you enjoy this recipe! Please leave a comment and let me know what you think!

Plans, Plans, Plans…

So, what are we up to? We have grand plans for the farm! As they say…so much to do, so little time…

Our house came with three acres that are cleared and fifteen wooded acres. It also came with a coop and a blue horse-barn-turned-house. We are starting slow, but I can’t wait until we have it the way we want it!

We currently have chickens in the coop (pictured below) and are in the process of converting the blue-horse-barn-now-house back into a barn (pictured to the right)….for goats! I am SO excited! I have done a lot of research on raising goats and while I can see the load of work in front of me, I can already see the reward! They are cute, playful, and I am looking for to making my own milk, butter, and even soap!

We got eight more chicks at the end of January, and they are now about 9-10 weeks old. We built they’re coop from pallets and are still in the process of finishing it. I am blogging about this already, even though it’s not completely finished!! We will be introducing them to the first flock through a fenced offed run area and will eventually let them congregate together in our large, fenced in area for them.


We also want to get pigs…probably just feeder pigs to begin with but we do want to eventually breed our own for meat and to sell. We plan on building their area with pallets, too. I will definitely be posting about that when as it happens!

I am also increasing the size of my garden dramatically this year. I went from a 24′ x 24′ area to a 40′ x 50′ area this year!!!! I think I’m crazy but I had it planned and drawn out in January and I am already getting ready with a couple of crops in the ground! Please read about it and tell me your thoughts!

BIG, BIG, plans, huh!?! I’m nervous and excited! Of course, some of this has to be done around my husband’s work schedule so time isn’t always on my side…I want it now, but I’ll have to be patient!!!

As always, all comments, suggestions, etc. are welcome and appreciated!

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My Garden…2018

It was dead in the middle of winter, snow and all, when I planned this year’s garden. I have gone from a 24′ x 24′ plot near the chicken coop last year to a 40′ x 50′ plot near the blue house/barn for this year! I KNEW I had to plan!

I have the gardening itch especially since it’s been a pretty cold winter. I have been ready for spring since the end of January!

My garden last year was obviously a lot smaller, and also, the area I had it ended up being very, very… did I say very?… wet! As if that wasn’t enough (as life and nature I think like to laugh at us) we had a pretty cool summer. UGH! Needless to say, my garden was only about half as successful as I was picturing.

My mother-in-law warned me not to get too attached to what I was planting because you never know what might go wrong. Of course, being me, I still learned that lesson the hard way. I have figured out that this life is about trial and error and learning along the way what works and what doesn’t…and that what works for me may or may not work for you too.

Undoubtedly, though, I can’t say that I won’t get too attached again. That’s just the way I am. Besides, it’s hard not to get attached when you put all of that hard work into something. So, we’ll see what happens this year!

This is where we moved the garden. It’s not perfect either. It is a little wet but no where near what I was dealing with last year. I am also able to add more compost and garden soil to help with drainage and nutrients.

I couldn’t wait to get started! I tilled and put the garlic in the ground in October of last year, so it is well on it’s way. We increased the amount of garlic we planted dramatically – we went from about 34 plants last year to between 200 and 300 this year! Our garlic comes with a great background story…you can read about it here.

I am also increasing the numbers for the rest of my crops as I would like to sell some and store/preserve some for the rest of the year. I’m going from about 18 tomato plants last year, to 3-4 times that this year. I am doubling the amount of broccoli, squash, zucchini, bell peppers, and cucumbers as well as tripling the amount of jalepenos, peas, and beans.

I will also be planting herbs, watermelons, pumpkins, and companion flowers (marigolds, petunias, nastriums) to add to the efficiency and beauty of my garden. Speaking of the appeal of my garden, I like potager gardens, so that is what I am attempting this year as you can see in the picture of my garden layout (I drew this out on grid paper and have been using it so please excuse it’s not-so-perfect appearance…):

Planning out your garden on paper or computer, whichever works for you, really does help you when you are planting your garden. It helps me keep everything in line, knowing what goes where and I don’t have to wonder if I’ll have enough room. This also helped me to know how much of everything I need.

I hope you have a successful growing seasons and, please, let me know how it’s going and about anything you are trying! You can share your plans, too, if you want!

Happy gardening!

All About Me

Welcome to Back Yard Farm Life! I’m PennyFlo, a Florida girl, born and raised, and I love the beach. When I married my husband of over ten years now, I never imagined I would be living in Pennsylvania starting a homestead and hobby farm!

We always talked about having a house with some land but never really discussed what we would do with it. His mother is into gardening with three or so large garden areas, but that was never something I saw myself doing.

Well…here I am with my husband and kids, in western Pennsylvania, embarking on a farm life journey. We’ve been here about a year and a half now and I already have the homesteading/farming fever.

As I continue down my new path, my goal with this blog is to share my experiences (good and bad) in the different areas of farming and homesteading. These areas include gardening, livestock, recipes, and DIY. I would also love to here from you about any tips and ideas you have. I will do my best to try them out and write about my experiences with those too!

Thank you for joining me on my adventure! I hope to learn and grow with you on my journey into farming and homesteading.