The JARR Farmhouse Revisited

 

What a difference three months can make! For everyone considering, attempting, or winning at urban homesteading, here are some things to consider from “a house of four women who are completely unqualified farmers” but are having a go anyway, sharing inspiration and creative tips for container gardening and other homestead adventures direct from the southern California quarantine.

In April, the planter beds and containers were set up, the soil prepared, and the sowing commenced. See the previous post for our “before” photos. A lot of new skills came into play during May, June, and July, and now it’s time for the summer harvest. Let’s see how the ladies managed.

  1. Remember this lil chick? She was a dude. Four hens came home. One was an imposter and crows now.

    Are we planting flowers or fowls?

    Claudius Maximus Caesar is a lavender orpington. Attitude sold separately.

    Pika is a pheasant cochin, Mochi is a blue leghorn, and Boo is a blue plymouth. They trade manure and eggs for leftover garden produce and bugs. Win, win.

  2. Chickens here require a coop built like a maximum detention facility. Suburbia is no barrier to critters like coons, possums, snakes, weasels, bobcats, coyotes, hawks, skunks, and toddlers, all of whom love to ruin months of hard work in a single night. Build it, and they will come. Search my blog for other stories on chickens.

    Extra points for cuteness. This went inside a larger, chain-link enclosure.

  3. Speaking of extra, the watermelon patch has taken over most of the yard. The first five seeds were planted in April. Nothing happened. They planted another five seeds in May. Nothing sprouted. They bought watermelon seedlings and then it rained. Fifteen watermelon plants later, they could open a corner farm stand and sell melons if they wanted to. For now, they are making friends and influencing people with them. Smart business ladies.

    Summer picnic time!

  4. That one rain is a good reminder about SoCal: we have to water our yards and gardens. We live in a desert. But we are in denial. The spring months were unseasonably cool but by the end of July, the hot spells rolled in. Either way…we have to get out there and water the garden or lose everything. Here you can see the block planter with herbs gone to seed, the shelf planter with greens gone to bunnies (they jump? who knew?) and only part of the rioting watermelon patch.

    Planter mosh pit.

  5. Rows of corn planted along a fence grew to different heights, based precisely on how much sun vs shade they received during the day. Lesson: more sun = taller corn. Taller corn = more ears.

    Growing gold.

  6. The pumpkins fared well, although we are nowhere close to Halloween. Lesson: plant them in the summer for a fall harvest. Also: chunk them into the InstantPot and make homegrown pumpkin pies now because yum.

    Smallish but tasty.

  7. The rest of the garden grew nicely. The cucumbers and peppers are ready. Fresh salad greens came through quickly around the end of May and were afterward left to the bunnies. Late July is when tomatoes are bursting. The butternut squash were delicious.

    Chili pepper poppers, anyone?

    Little cuke cuties!

    Cheery cherry tomatoes!

  8. Last, but not least, we had a peek at the fruit trees in pots. I was a bit skeptical, but here’s proof that you don’t need a yard to harvest trees. These would fit on an apartment balcony.

    Meyer lemon tree. Harvest in winter.

    Mission figs. They will turn a glorious purple later.

The JARR Farmhouse

The JARR Farmhouse comes to us from “a house of four women who are completely unqualified farmers” but post regularly on Instagram anyway, sharing inspiration and creative tips for container gardening and other homestead adventures direct from the southern California quarantine.

If you’re looking for a breath of fresh air to take your mind off the kinda-spooky-never-ending rain, the longer-than-humanly-possible house arrest, and the you-don’t-know-who-coughed-on-that produce aisle, look no further.

Whether you have a jar of dirt or an acre of land, you too can grow fresh produce with a little ingenuity and patience. The way these ladies figure it, if they can do it, so can you. The idea behind this style of gardening is to keep pests to a minimum and the planters movable.

Here are today’s tips for tomorrow’s harvest.

Cinderblock containment.

Cinderblocks make fast, easy garden boxes. Plant flowers (marigold, chrysanthemum) and herbs (rosemary, lavender) that repel pests in the holes and fill the center with your soil and root plants like potatoes, ginger, and onions. Using cedar wood shavings as mulch is also a natural pest deterrent. If gophers are a problem in your area, lay down a sheet of welded wire first, then edge with blocks and fill with soil. If you need to add a cage to keep the deer, rabbits, birds, or raccoons out, the cinderblock is a sturdy base for your tent poles and chicken wire.

Cinderblock and planks.

Green goodness.

Add a few planks to the cinderblock and take your planting vertical. In the base is your watermelon and pumpkins (they will grow out beyond the base) and layered on the benches are a variety of containers. A smaller version of this idea is placing the containers in your sunny kitchen windows. Most pests have a hard time reaching anything up high like this. Leafy salad greens don’t require a lot of root space and can be planted in more shallow containers. Root crops like carrots, radishes, and beets need more soil to grow in, so choose deeper pots. The ladies plan a trip to the second hand shop as soon as it opens to scout for fun containers. Personally, I like teapots and old work boots as planters. You do you.

Climbers need a grip.

Any of your climbing viney crops, like peas, cucumbers, and runner beans are planted next to anything that will hold their weight when they produce. It can be a simple as this twine lattice or as sturdy as a chain link fence you have along your yard. You can repurpose everything from an old ladder to a pallet for your climbing garden.

Wheelbarrow berries.

Nobody loves strawberries more than slugs and snails. An elevated planter, without obvious paths to the prize is a genius solution. Strawberries are also happy in hanging containers and don’t need much room. Keep your delicacies safe from tell tale holes and eat the berries yourself!

Sprouting jars.

Chia, barley, and wheatgrass seeds lend themselves to making sprouts in jars. They make a great salad topping and green smoothie goodness. For tips on sprouting, see my blog here.

Mobile munchies.

Some plants demand containers. Really. If you are unsure of your eco zone, especially if you are chasing the sun as the seasons turn, putting your tree in a pot makes sense. This is a dwarf nectarine. Move the pot to meet the sunshine or avoid a heavy frost. Most varieties of berries and mint are downright invasive if not kept in a pot. You were warned.

Coming soon…!

No way am I leaving without showing you this little fluff. In a future blog, we will devote ourselves to chickens and other critters, the other fun parts of The JARR Farmhouse as it evolves. Have yourself a happy little garden, even if it’s a pansy in the window. Be sure to follow @the_jarr_farmhouse on Instagram to watch the crops come in.

Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. Genesis 1:11

Sunflower Psych

Picture 800 giant Mammoth Sunflowers planted in row upon row in a corner of the elementary school lot. Each towered a good six or seven feet tall, each leaf the size of a dinner plate. It made a veritable jungle and was surreal to walk through.

This was one of my quirky ideas back when I was a volunteer (motto: you can get away with the wildest schemes, and they can’t fire you) and of course, whoever comes up with an idea “gets” to be responsible for pulling it off.

Lucky me.

I come from a gardening family and raised my own kids around dirt and plants and tools of the trade.  This was yet another version of my idea of fun.

While the sunflower project was actually tied to an art lesson, the agricultural aspect of it turned out to be a real eye-opener for me. Maybe kids say the darndest things, but they don’t lie.

Each class was led out to the garden area where I explained that we were going to plant sunflowers and spend the next weeks monitoring the plants until they bloomed.  Each student had a Popsicle stick with their name on it, which would help them find their own special flower during the wait.

I carefully handed each student a sunflower seed. They looked at me blankly.

“What do I do with it?” one asked.

“You walk over to the row and plant it,” I patiently explained.

One little boy stared at his seed very hard. “Do I eat it?” he asked.

“Well, you put it in the ground and bury it,” I said, “Then you stick your name beside it.”

They stood there staring at me as though I had suggested one of the stupidest things they had ever heard. It was obvious they had never planted a seed before. They could not fathom how putting something that had edible value here and now would be improved on by sticking it in the dirt and walking away.

This…from a grown-up! Incredulous looks turned into something like pity for me as they went through the motions and slowly filed back to the classroom.

I can’t decide which of us felt more crushed.

You can only imagine the next week or two while I watered and waited in more than a little angst until the first shoots came up. Over the course of the eight week experiment, students came out and toured the expanding garden, searching out their own plants, measuring them, petting them, and encouraging them to Jack-and-the-beanstalk heights.

They brought parents through after school.

Eventually, at the end of the school year, it was apparent that their one humble seed had become more seeds than they could count. I hope they were encouraged to garden at home. I hope they understood on some level that food does not come from a grocery store or out of a package.

I know the garden connected earth and art. I know it spoke to their minds more eloquently than a grown-up could. I know we made great memories.

And I hope they will always look at a sunflower seed and see possibilities.