The sunflowers that require no annual planting: meet sunchokes (aka wild sunflowers) and Maximilian sunflowers. Of course they bring a sunflower vibe to growing spaces, but also have all the perks of perennials for the environment.
Tubers loosen compacted soils, blossoms feed pollinators, the woody plant tissue absorbs more carbon from the atmosphere than annual plants, they create a safe haven for predatory insects and birds, and they are edible. It’s said Maximilian sunflowers were planted around homes by the early settlers to deter mosquitos, and when their tubers are dried and added to bath water, they relieve pain and inflammation due to arthritis. And let’s not forget to mention the stunning living wall these plants create.
Both sunchokes and Maximilian sunflowers spread by way of edible tubers. Therefore it's essential to plant these crops in a location with moist but well-draining soil. Too much standing water is cause for root rot, and will not only affect the harvestable roots but also threaten the life and productivity of the plants. If plants are allowed to continue to multiply without harvesting the tubers, a dense living wall will remain that can spread more and more every season.
Meet Garlic, a new kitten here named by my kids. ☺️ Every addition is a balance on the homestead between what the farm needs and what nature already provides. As a permaculture practitioner, I assess every single element before bringing in something new… this is how an ecosystem is maintained.
In this case, we were down to one barn cat. I knew we’d likely need another before the temperatures plummet… a barn full of hay and animal feed (no matter how well protected) is a welcoming spot for country mice and rats. I waited to see what our resident rodent and owl populations were like, how many predatory inhabitants we have that could access the barn realistically with guard dogs around, and what stray cats (if any) might come by. Too many cats could reduce a food source other wildlife needs to survive so I wanted to be sure we had enough prey to support another cat. If I take a food source away from owls, kestrels, fox, etc., they’ll be more likely to prey on my birds or leave the farm all together; neither of which is the intention. And because this is social media, yes, I feed my cats multiple times per day. 😉
And so it was meant to be. We welcomed Garlic a few weeks ago. A skittish but most welcome new farm friend.
Time stamps: On Finnegan: 0:15 // Meet the new horses: 1:00 // See the stable upgrade: 5:10
I have been putting off making this video because we recently endured a devastating loss on my permaculture farm; my partner and friend, Finnegan, passed away unexpectedly. While processing my grief, it was essential I find Dozer (my remaining Clydesdale mare) a stablemate because horses just don't do well alone. Very quickly, I found two beautiful horses we could offer a forever home to. Meet Sholto and Nevin, who are both already broke to ride and drive.
In this video I'm sharing the new comers, talking about losing Finn, and showing the upgraded stable. A few amazing places to shop for a horse if you're open to adoption:
Colby's Crew: https://colbyscrewrescue.org/
Horses Deserve a Second Chance: http://www.horsesdeserveasecondchance.com/
Sweet potatoes aren’t really potatoes. They’re tropical plants with edible roots in the morning glory family. As such, the harvest should be cured differently to create a sweeter flavor.
- Start by planting after the last frost. You can do slips or plant an entire sweet potato. Make sure the soil is loose and nutrient-dense as these are heavy feeding plants.
- Apply a dense layer of straw or mulch at planting time to retain moisture and prevent weeds. I do 10-12” thick. Grow undisturbed all season—no pruning of vines is necessary.
- Stop watering about 7-10 days before you plan to harvest. This prevents cracked skin on the potatoes.
- Harvest with your hands if possible by carefully moving back the vines, soil, and mulch. Lift without a shovel to avoid puncturing the potatoes.
- Sweet potatoes need heat and humidity to cure. I harvest mine when the forecast shows temps are soon to dip and the plant begins to yellow. Do not wash the tubers.
- A shady dry table outdoors is great for curing. Sweet potatoes need 80°F+ temps and 90% humidity according to The Farmer’s Almanac. Cure for two to three weeks before storing long term in a dark, cool, aerated location.
- Sweet potatoes are an amazing ground cover in food forest systems and also do well when grown with sunflowers!
NOTE: deer LOVE sweet potato vines
Nothing is wasted. Capturing and storing energy. These are a couple of the permaculture principles I’m employing by soaking my carrots in water for 12 hours before processing, and then reclaiming that micro-organism filled water for my garden and compost heap.
Right after harvesting carrots and other root crops, it’s essential to remove the greens. Otherwise they’ll continue to pull water from the root. This can leave your carrot, turnip, or radish for example, wilted if it had to keep supplying the green tips with hydration. To restore any lost water and to loosen dirt and debris on the outside of the vegetable, I soak my carrots for 8-12 hours post harvest, after the greens have been removed.
The next day, when I’m processing the carrots, I’m left with water that contains all the soil from my garden. That garden soil was created using a mix of growing soil, compost, and organic matter I’ve built up over time. By allowing it to soak in the water and breathe overnight, micro bacteria in that soil begins to multiply. Essentially, we’re creating compost tea from the soil deposits on the outside of the crops.
This nutrient dense liquid can be applied to the garden directly. Instead I prefer to add mine to my compost heap. Scraps from vegetable processing are a great compost additive —but liquid compost is even better since it’s full of helpful microbes.
Angela is the farmer and content creator behind Axe & Root Homestead® LLC. This historic six-acre permaculture farm is home to two Clydesdale horses, ten honeybee hives, five sheep, two guardian dogs, barn cats and a flock of 40 geese and ducks. The farm produces maple syrup, fruit from a small orchard and loads of garden produce for consumption, preservation and donation to the local food pantry.
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