Thursday, December 22, 2016

Handmade by Bottle Tree Farm

Several months ago I fell in love with paper crafting and card making, but I quickly learned how expensive it can get to feed my new found hunger.  So I decided to make some cards to sell to offset some of the cost.  I sold a few cards, and after the fact realized I had not marked them in any way as handmade or with my farm name.  Even a few friends pointed it out.  "You really should put your name on the back of those cards so people will know who made them."  Oops!

I started looking and found cute "handmade by" stamps, but I couldn't decide what I would do about my farm name because it's long!  I didn't want to hand write it each time because my handwriting is atrocious.  I looked at custom stamp options and didn't really want to spend that money yet on a custom stamp.  I thought about alphabet stamps, but when I priced alphabet stamp sets, I couldn't justify buying more than one set and dedicating them only to assembling a custom stamp.  And, I really didn't want to assemble my farm name every time I made a card.    

I was in Michael's one day and saw these babies in the bargain bins.

At $1.25 a set, I didn't feel like I could go wrong, and at that price I could buy the four sets I needed to make a custom stamp.  I lined them up and used some shipping tape to hold them together.  I just folded over the edge of the tape on each end.  I'm pleased that for around $5, I have a custom handmade stamp.

The blocks do wiggle a little bit and I have to make sure I apply even pressure, so I may eventually glue them together.  But overall I love the way the letters don't exactly line up, giving it a truly hand-stamped look.

I eventually bought a 5th set so I would have at least one "e" as I used all of the "e" stamps in the first four sets for my custom stamp.  Now, I have a pretty good collection of extras for stamping projects, and I've already used them a few times.

I love the typed look on this card.

And, they fit perfectly in the boxes of this crossword paper.

I would say these little sets of $1.25 alphabet stamps get my "stamp" of approval.

Happy stamping,


Sunday, December 18, 2016

Winter Renewal (and Farm Chores)

If there is one thing farmers know about, it's planning their lives around the seasons.  I love reading The Pioneer Lady books by Jane Watson Hopping.  She writes of her community and growing up on a farm with her family.  In her world, winter was a time for regeneration and rest.  The final harvest before the first snowfall marked the end of the growing season and the beginning of slower days. That doesn't mean they didn't still have work to do, but the chores weren't as pressing or as numerous, and there was a little extra time in the day to socialize and reconnect with each other. I sometimes long for a long snow-filled winter where growing vegetable is near to impossible.  In the south, they say we have two weather conditions, hot and hotter.  Because of this, we can grow year round, and it's hard to justify not growing at least a few things when the weather works in your favor.  Winter greens do quite well in our climate and with hoop houses, we can even extend the growing season for many warm weather vegetables.  The first freeze last week finally killed off my eggplant, pepper and basil plants.  Eggplants, peppers and basil in December!  I do try to cut back in the winter and follow the lead of Mrs. Hopping, but that doesn't mean I still don't have chores, just as they did.  

I am in no way a large scale farmer, but my set-up is enough that I recognize the seasons and the activities and chores that come with each one. What farm chores do I do this time of year you may ask?  I still plant winter vegetables, just not as many as in the summer.  I like to plant plenty of greens because they can be shared with my rabbits and chickens.  I clean out all of the garden beds, including weeds and the veggie plants themselves.  I top all of my beds with manure so it can break down over the winter and regenerate my soil (I'm behind in this chore so I really need to get it done!).  I then top all of my beds with wood mulch (Once again, behind!).  In January I start to think about seed propagation and the varieties I want to grow in the new year.  In most years, a seed order is placed.  I plan the layout of each bed, rotating veggies from the year before to other beds to help control soil diseases.  Any maintenance that needs to be done around the farm is completed.  And, if I have a large project planned, it gets done this time of year as well.  My ultimate goal is to prep and get everything ready for the spring and summer, but most importantly, it's to relax a little.  

Nature takes this time to renew itself; we should do the same.

Happy homesteading,



Sunday, November 6, 2016

Move Along Tree Rats, There's Nothing to Eat Here!

We took this peach tree down a few weeks ago.  It was a hard decision because that tree has seen the full transition of my yard to a farm.  It's a symbol of my origins as a gardener, really one of the first things I planted when we moved here.  I remember thinking how cool it was that we would be growing and enjoying our own peaches.  I mean, after all, we live in Georgia, the Peach State, and I grew up stopping at roadside peach stands each summer to buy the juicy sweet fruit.  I even worked at a peach farm one summer in high school.  For years this tree produced magnificently, but the only creatures enjoying the bounty were the tree rats, a.k.a. squirrels.  They even have their own squirrel highway, down the limb of a huge oak tree, across the branches of the loropetalum, and straight into the peach tree.  Well, they are in for a rude awakening come next summer.  I can hardly wait to see their looks of disappointment.  Of all the years we had the tree, we only got one decent harvest, which was during the Year of the Squirrel Slayer.  You can read about him here.

Then, the next year, the peach borers moved in.  If the peaches managed to make it to a ripe stage before the squirrels got them, the peach borers were ready and waiting for their chance. If you don't know it already, it's REALLY hard to grow peaches organically.  I live just across the state line from South Carolina, which is the 2nd largest producer of peaches after California.  One would think if there were organic peaches to be found, they would be found 30 minutes or so from my house.  But, I only know of one organic peach farm in these parts. 

I finally thought to myself, "Why am I sacrificing prime real estate in my yard to a fruit tree that is giving me no return?"  With limited space, I am constantly accessing what works for me and what doesn't, and the peach tree just wasn't working for me anymore.  So what did I replace it with?  I replaced it with a fruit that the squirrels don't bother, figs!  Brown Turkey fig trees are probably the most prevalent variety found in older southern yards.  My neighbor has probably a 40 year old tree hanging over the fence of his yard, the main trunk of it being in his neighbor's yard.  And while I have access to that part of the tree for picking each year, it's not the same as having my own full size fig tree.  Because if you ask me, figs are the best fruit on the planet, and each year I gorge myself on them.  And, when I'm done gorging, I can spiced figs and fig jam.  I make fig pizzas and upside down fig cakes.  Fig ice cream is on my list as well.  Figs, figs, figs, I love you figs. So, here is my little fig tree.

Grow little one.  I expect great things from you! 

Happy homesteading,