The Rabbit Mystery

My daughter came in the front door, calling, “Mom! Come here! Hurry!” I might’ve panicked, but the tone of her voice hinted at something pleasant. Again, she urged, “hurry!” As I came downstairs, “I said, ‘It’s not something that’s going to get loose in the house, is it?” She and her cousin giggled.

What greeted me were the big eyes and long ears of a huge brown rabbit! She and her cousin, Sydney, had just returned from going to a movie, and as they neared home they saw a rabbit in our country road. They stopped the car and got out and together were easily able to catch the huge rabbit.

Margaret and Sydney with the rabbit they’d just caught.
Wild or Pet?

They immediately started debating whether it was wild, or a dumped pet. It looked just like a wild cottontail. In fact, it looked very much like the stock photo I used on my Favorite Blog Hops page. But it was easy to catch and very plump, making them wonder if it could have been a dumped pet.

Divine Providence?

The funny thing was the timing. Just the night before, Margaret and I had been sitting on our front porch enjoying the sunset, and were reminiscing. About ten years earlier when we first moved to our homestead we had brought two large New Zealand rabbits. During that first year or so, she raised several litters of baby rabbits. One of my favorite memories was when we brought them into the house to doctor their eyes and we had little rabbits jumping all over us. Margaret said she’d like to have a pet rabbit again. I admitted that even I had thought about having a pet rabbit. So now as she said she wanted to keep this one, it was hard to look at those big brown eyes and say no. It seemed possible that God agreed that she needed a rabbit.

Settling In

It was about 10 o’clock at night and I didn’t mind her keeping it, but we had to find some basic supplies. We found a large plastic tub to contain him for the night, and some stainless steel pet bowls to put some food and water in.

When I awoke the next morning, Margaret was already up with the rabbit that she had named “Wiggles.” She was feeding Wiggles some cantaloupe in the den, and apologized if she had woken me up. She said Wiggles had woken her up early by thumping on the tub with his back feet.

Wiggles

Together we looked in our garage for supplies for a temporary litter box. I think most homesteads are like ours in that we accumulate a lot of stuff, stuff that comes in handy at times like these. We found a shallow cardboard box and some cat litter. We even still had the halter that she used with Lucy and Peter, her rabbits ten years ago.

Wiggles seems to be relaxing and making himself at home. He’s hopping around and enjoying the breakfast salad that Margaret made of clover, weeds, and cantaloupe.

Wiggles Eating Breakfast

Margaret looked up domestic rabbit breeds and found one called “San Juan” that looked exactly like this one. It said they were docile and made good pets, and also that they were bred to look like cottontails. She grimaced as she read that they were a popular choice for training hunting dogs, but then laughed at the thought that someone might have been using it for that purpose and she had rescued it.

Wiggles in Margaret’s Lap

We still haven’t solved the mystery, and haven’t tried to determine its gender yet, so for now it’s a “he.” There may possibly be a follow up post later on. As Margaret said, “Of all the things we’ve found in the road, this one is the most mysterious.”

The Rabbit Mystery

 

Wings

If you follow my Facebook page, then you may have seen some photos and videos of a broody hen named Stella. We’ve raised chickens off and on for ten years now, and we’ve had many hens go broody, but they would start setting on a clutch of eggs only to abandon it halfway through. When hens get broody, they stop laying eggs, so in the interest of production that instinct has been bred out of them for the most part. Stella is the first to hatch out and care for a small brood of chicks, so it’s the first time I’ve had the treat of watching a mama hen’s instincts at work. So far she’s doing a great job and her chicks are doing very well. We’re still keeping them separated from the rest of the flock for the protection of the youngsters, so periodically I check on them and provide for their needs. I love watching the little chicks zip in and out from under mama, and listening to her reassuring clucks. It has caused me to contemplate the concept of “wings.”

Picture I took when I first discovered the newly hatched chicks.
For Sheltering
Newly hatched chicks are extremely susceptible to cold. A broody hen is very warm underneath, between 105 and 107 degrees Fahrenheit, so newly hatched chicks find the warmth they need beneath her wings. Were it to rain before their feathers had grown in, they would also be kept dry.
A chick peeks out from beneath Stella’s wing.

When I first discovered that some chicks had hatched, I went into the coop to check for any that might have fallen out of the raised nest box. Sure enough, I found a little white chick laying on the floor. I picked it up and it was cold and lifeless, yet I felt its heart beating. I held it in one of my hands while I went to get supplies for the new family. By the time I got back, it was starting to revive a little. After my husband helped me prepare a place and move them, I put the weak little chick up under its mother. When I returned a little later to check on them, it had revived and was getting around as well as the others.

Video of Stella and chicks

For Protecting
As soon as a hen gets broody, she becomes very defensive. When you get near her, she’ll fluff her feathers and growl. If you reach for her eggs, she’ll peck at you. That behavior continues once her chicks are hatched. Here is a video clip of that behavior:

Our hen, Stella, seemed to soften a little bit at that point, but she was still very protective of her chicks. If they had ventured away from her, she brought them back with a certain call, and they’d scurry back underneath her wings.

Stella keeping a watchful eye on me.
Our Heavenly Father

Many times in scripture, wings are used to describe God’s loving care of His people:

“How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.” (Psalm 36:7 New International Version)

“Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me, for in you I take refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.” (Psalm 57:1)

“He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” (Psalm 91:4)

How reassuring it is to know that He watches over us and invites us to take shelter beneath His wings. Watching Stella with her babies has given me new appreciation for that analogy.

Motherhood
The term “wings” reminds me of myself, too, and my role as a mother. Even before my children were conceived, I was praying and preparing for them. As soon as they entered the world, my instincts kicked in. I remember well how protective I felt, and if I could have had a police escort, or perhaps an armored vehicle, when taking our babies home for the first time, I would have. When I took them out in public, I worried that someone might try to kidnap them, so I kept them very close, and if I had to look away from them, I kept a hand on them. That may sound paranoid, but we lived in a huge metropolitan area at the time. My children were (and still are) my treasures. Even now, with them full-grown, I always feel ready to protect them. I have to restrain myself sometimes and let them handle things theirselves, but inside, I still feel like Stella in these pictures. You can see that she’s watching me carefully.

Wings

For Flying
Our children are in the “fledgling” stage now. They’re trying their own wings and even as they fly further and further from the nest, they are always welcome back.

One spring, years ago, I heard a ruckus out front so I went to investigate. At the edge of our yard, by the woods, there were some Blue Jays in the trees. I’m at a loss at how to describe their calls, but they’re very loud and boisterous, much like an alarm. On the lawn I discovered a young Jay sitting in the grass, and the closer I got to it, the more frantic and loud the parents became. It was a fledgling that had tried its wings and had landed in the grass. From their perches, it’s parents were watching over it and encouraging it to try again. They were prepared to defend it from a cat, or me, if necessary.

That memory, which had been stored in the back of my mind, came to the forefront these recent years as first our son, and then our daughter, started trying their wings. My husband and I watch over them and encourage them from a distance. Sometimes their landings are rough and they get discouraged, so we try to boost their spirits and give them the courage to try again. With each attempt their wings become a little stronger. I’m still waiting to see where they will eventually carry them, and hope that it’s not too far away.

Wings
Mama Phoebe

Even as I write this, the front door is open, and from my chair where I’m writing I can see the bird feeders. I’m watching hummingbirds, blue jays, cardinals and others, flying to and fro. We have a large flood light mounted to the peak of our roof, and a mama Phoebe built a nest up there and is raising some chicks. When I’m in the front yard I can hear them up there clamoring for food, and I see mama flying to and from the nest, doing her best to fill those hungry mouths.

Empty Nests

Spring is when birds build their nests, raise their chicks and teach them how to fly. It’s also the season of graduations and marriages – young adults take wing and their parents join the ranks of empty nesters.

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Wings
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Rainy Days ~ A Simple Pleasure

I love rain. Rainy days make me feel like nesting. Maybe that’s because God is taking care of my watering chores, and when I have seeds sown and new plants getting established, I especially appreciate the help that a good soaking rain gives them. Rainy days give this gardener time to catch up on a little housework. I’ll open a few windows, light a scented candle, and do some chores that have been neglected.

Simple Pleasures

Simple Pleasures, for me, are things that are readily available to most everyone, for free or close to it. Being able to identify and appreciate simple pleasures goes a long way towards leading a happy life.

Cares Float Away Like Bubbles

When my kids were little, I used to sit on the porch with them and blow bubbles. You’d think they’d pop right away, but the opposite was true. They lasted even longer and we watched them float out into the rain, reflecting opalescent light on their way. We’d see how many bubbles we could get going with all three of us blowing as quickly as we could. It was a relaxing way to enjoy the weather with the kids.

A Spring Break to Remember

Once, when we lived on the coast, my sister came to visit for Spring Break, bringing her young son. I think mine were about six and two, so her’s would’ve been about four. Down there on the coast we occasionally got tropical depressions that would bring 10-11″ of rain in a day, and that happened soon after she arrived. We lived in a small canal house at the time, so we were stuck in the house with three small children all day while the rain poured. At the end of the day the rain let up a little bit and we were able to have a pizza delivered. That was the highlight, I think, of her visit.

Puddle Fun

When heavy rains left puddles, I let our kids go out and run through them. They had fun running, splashing, and laughing. I enjoyed watching them, and I still enjoy those memories.

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For the Love of Porches

I’ve always had to have a porch where I could take a drink (or maybe some bubbles), sit and relax, and listen to the rain’s “music.” I also love the aroma of the air. Being able to open some windows while it’s raining is something else that’s important to me. I’ve kept those things in mind while shopping for new homes. I inherited the love of porches from my mother.

Rainy day from the porch.
When Enough’s Enough

Now I live on a hill in the Ozark “mountains.” I don’t have to worry about flooding at my home, but we have a lot of “low water crossings” that can flood and make it difficult to get around. At times it’s very difficult to get to town.

Road closure due to flooding.

We average such a flood about once or twice per year. When the rain lets up, we usually drive down to the bridges to see how high the water is. During the worst of them, there is often a lot of debris floating down the creek-turned-river. Several years ago, during one such flood, a lot of cattle got swept downstream. We were at the bridge and the water had risen quickly, stranding some motorists on the far side who had to wait for the water to recede. Along with them was a tired cow that had pulled itself from the flood waters.

Black cow and traffic waiting for flood waters to recede.
Flooded Low Water Crossing

When we moved to the Ozarks, “low water crossings” were new to me. I was nervous to cross them when they had a little water over them. Learning to tell how much is too much is an important skill around here. They are the first areas to flood.

Another Flooded Low Water Crossing

The Ozarks have a lot of creeks and springs. The springs become more noticeable after heavy rain.

Gushing Spring

I started writing this post a few days ago during a torrential downpour. At one point we lost our internet due to flooding. That’s where I draw the line. (LOL!) I’d had enough. Luckily, it wasn’t off for too long.

Back to the Porch
April Showers Bring May Flowers

Our ducks and geese seemed to enjoy the rainy day, too. They all waddled happily around the yard.

My preference is to enjoy rain at home, watching it water my gardens. Sometimes I’m even blessed to see a beautiful rainbow, reminding me of God’s promise.

Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you—the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you—every living creature on earth. I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.”

And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.” Genesis 9:8-16

You can’t have rainbows without rain.

It doesn’t cost a thing to slow down and enjoy a rainy day. It’s another of my simple pleasures.

More Simple Pleasures

Solitude

Open Windows

The Clothesline

Rainy Days ~ A Simple Pleasure

 

Poultry for the Homeplace ~ A Practical Primer

Poultry are not paltry on the homeplace. They each serve a purpose and are profitable. Poultry refers to a variety of domesticated birds that are raised for their meat and eggs. It includes chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, and guineas.

Plumage

I think of our birds as feathered flowers. They all have different colors and patterns, and are all beautiful in their own way. I marvel at God’s creativity and imagine Him as he created each one, thinking “how can I make this one different?”

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Guineas are downright comical. They’re the clowns of our homestead. Look at that funny “helmet,” their bright red “wattles,” and their polka-dotted feathers.

We’ve raised several different “heritage” breeds of turkeys over the years. I’ve enjoyed the Toms, in particular, as they puff their chest and strut their stuff. They prance in a circle, dragging the tips of their wings and making a drumming sound. They’re persistent in their pursuit of proper admiration!

Geese aren’t as varied in their appearance, but their feathers are wonderful for pillows and bedding. Not that I’ve used them for that, but just wanted to mention it.

Production

Not only do the birds have different colors, but their eggs do, too. I really enjoy having our own fresh eggs, and I also appreciate them for their beauty. The color of eggs varies with the breed. Duck and goose eggs are white, guineas’ are brown-speckled, and chickens come in a rainbow of colors including blue, green, pink(ish), white, and various shades of brown. You can’t buy eggs like these at the grocery store!

Goose and Chicken Eggs

You are probably familiar with chicken eggs, but the eggs of other poultry are edible as well. Duck and goose eggs are richer and great for baking! Guinea eggs are pretty small, so you need more of them, but you can eat them.

Pests

Living in the country, there’s no end to the pests we live among, whether they prey on us and our pets, like ticks, chiggers, fleas and snakes; or our plants, like beetles, caterpillars, grasshoppers and bugs. I try to garden organically, and our birds are great partners!

Chickens are omnivorous and if you aren’t already experienced with them then you might be surprised at some of the things they’ll eat. Of course, they eat grain, seeds, plants, fruits and vegetables, but given the opportunity, they’ll eat frogs, small mice and snakes. Turkeys’ diets are similar. They will also eat acorns, which we have an abundance of.

Guineas march around the yard peculiarly, almost in formation, pecking at pests, large and small. They eat many of the same things that chickens do, but they don’t scratch, so they’re gentler around plants. With all of the tick-born diseases, I’m especially grateful for their help with eradicating them. I’ve read accounts of guineas encircling large snakes. Although I haven’t personally witnessed that yet, I do think that they would help by eating them, chasing them off, or alerting us to their presence.

Poultry for the Homeplace
Crested Ducks, Lucille and Lincoln

Ducks eat slugs and snails, as well as insects and grass. They are credited with being lower-maintenance, hardier, and quieter than chickens.

Permaculture

Poultry offer prodigious perks to participants in permaculture. Chickens and guineas will seek out pests that might threaten your home, garden or orchard. As they’re doing that, they’ll periodically pause to poop, thereby naturally fertilizing.

In the orchard they clean up fallen fruit. This helps to lessen disease and insect problems. By scratching around the base of the trees, chickens can pick out grubs that later in the season would emerge and infect the fruit.

Chickens working the compost pile

When I’m working in my garden, I collect weeds and other waste in buckets. When they’re full,  I dump them over the fence into a compost pile in the bird yard. The birds excitedly race over to rummage through it. They eat all the weeds, seeds, and insects. Their scratching also turns and breaks down leaves. Let’s just say they help process the compost more quickly. The variety of things they eat makes for flavorful and nutritious, orange-yolked eggs.

If you have other livestock such as horses, cows, or goats, flies can be a problem. Chickens can help combat the fly problem by scratching through manure and eating fly larvae.

Geese helping with the weeding

We have African Geese and I’m amazed at how they eat grass and weeds. The bird yard is large, and it’s picked clean. My husband made an opening into a small paddock, and so far they’ve kept it under control, too. When I’m working in the yard, I love opening the gate and letting all the birds have access to our whole homestead. I especially appreciate the geese working the fence lines where it’s hard to control the grass and weeds.

Protection

While they may not actually attack anyone, birds can certainly alert you to the presence of people or predators that don’t belong, giving you the opportunity to investigate the situation.

Birds can be pretty intimidating. Have you ever been “goosed?” Recently, we had a delivery and the woman jumped out of her truck to greet our two large, barking, guard dogs. But I had let all of the birds out and when the geese started running towards her, flapping their large wings and honking menacingly, she asked me, panic-stricken and poised to jump back in her truck, if they were attacking. So don’t under-estimate the guard potential of birds.

Guineas are well-known for their prodigious pandemonium. When anything is amiss, or they detect a predator or intruder, they sound the alarm. Here is a little video to give you a peek at their prattle:

Personality

The simple country life is not complete, in my opinion, without the presence of the peculiar personalities of poultry. I’m perpetually pleased by their picking and pecking, plucking and peeping. It’s my idea of paradise.

Post Script

Did you know that poultry were so profitable? They are definitely a valueable resource for the homesteader. If you’re considering adding a new breed to your homeplace, do some research to learn even more about them and make sure that they’re a good fit.

I’ve only covered the poultry that I have personal experience with, but there may be others. Do you have something to add? I invite you to share in the comments.

Please pin this purty picture:

 


Patiently Pruning Peaches and Pears

My gardening chore today was to prune my peach and pear trees. In my mind it was urgent because the peach trees are in full bloom and already starting to leaf out. I really wanted to get them pruned while I could see the limbs and the structure of the tree.

We’ve been working on our home orchard for quite awhile now and I’ve been learning as I go. I read up on pruning and then go do the best I can.

Sculpture

Where gardening is an art form, pruning, to me, is like sculpting. Thinking of it that way makes it more fun, anyway.

Peach Trees

With peach trees you want to end up with a vase shape and an open and airy structure.

“Before” picture of our mature peach tree.

Our older peach tree was here when we bought our home, so it’s over ten years old. I don’t think it was planted there on purpose, because it’s right at the edge of the driveway, but I don’t know for sure. I also don’t know what variety it is. Although you can’t tell from the before picture, I gave it a real good hacking last year. In fact, I worried that I had done too much. But here it is again this year, looking like it’s been neglected. Texas A&M recommends removing about 40% of the branches (link at bottom) and I’m not even sure I took out that much.

The reasons for pruning are longer life for the tree, less disease, and better harvest.

I started with removing that broken limb.

First, I started by cutting out broken, dead, and diseased branches.

Hanger shoots are branches that grow from the bottom of the limb. Water sprouts grow straight up from the top of the limb. Suckers grow from the roots at the base of the tree. All three of these types of branches need to be removed, so I did that next. At the time, I couldn’t remember the reason for removing the water sprouts, but it made sense to me to remove branches where I wouldn’t be able to reach to harvest fruit.

Water Sprouts grow straight up

I’ve learned from experience, that during the time it’s growing fruit, it will put on a lot more growth. When it comes time to harvest, it can be hard to reach fruit towards the interior of the tree, as well as at the top. With that in mind, I pruned branches I didn’t think I’d be able to get to. I want the tree to focus its energy on fruit I’ll be able to reach.

I remove branches that are too low on the trunk, and if they were too long and close to the ground, I cut them back. They’ll grow longer during the season, and then with the weight of fruit they’ll hang even lower. You don’t want fruit laying on the ground. Some of the branches extend too far into our driveway and I don’t want vehicles brushing against them later on, so I shortened those.

This branch is growing at too small of an angle.

Branches growing at too small of an angle are more prone to splitting off from the weight of fruit, so those are cut off, too. You want about a 45 degree angle.

When cutting, I try to leave about 1/4″ from the trunk or other branch. You don’t want cuts to be flush. It’s easier for them to heal if you leave a small amount.

After Pruning
Peach tree after pruning.

Branches that crossed others, or were growing toward the interior were also removed. Whew! It’s a wonder there’s anything left after all of that! I go ’round and ’round while pruning, and I step back often to see how it’s looking. Finally, I thought it looked pretty good. As with art, I don’t think there’s just one right way. It just needs to be done, so do your best and learn as you go.

Bull Shoots

I learned that there’s another type of shoot, called a “bull shoot,” that grows from the trunk or the top of the tree and should be removed in summer after harvesting the fruit. I’ll try to remember to do that later in the summer.

Thinning Fruit

I’m waiting to see if we get peaches this year because we had freezing temperatures in the middle of the blooming. When there is fruit, it’s important to thin it. I learned this from experience. The first year I couldn’t bring myself to pull off all of those cute baby peaches. When harvest came, there were a lot of them, but by the time I removed the skin and the pit, there wasn’t much left! If you will thin the peaches, the remaining fruit will be larger and with more “meat.” You’ll have to remove most of the peaches. Before you start, look them over and take off any that are diseased or malformed, then the smaller ones. Try to leave the larger ones with the ideal spacing of 6-8.” It takes a lot of time, so it usually takes me several sessions before I have it all done, but it’s worth the effort.

Pears
Seckel pear tree after light pruning.

I also pruned two young pear trees. They are about four years old and haven’t flowered yet. Although there are a lot of similarities in pruning them, there are also a few differences. You don’t want to remove as many branches as you do with peaches, for one. They also have a different growth habit, so you aren’t wanting a vase shape as with peaches. Mine don’t need very much pruning yet. Mainly, I removed the dead, diseased, and broken branches. I’m really anxious for them to start bearing. We have two, a Seckel and a Starking Delicious Pear Dwarf. We bought both of them from Stark Bro’s about three years ago.

Organic Orchard

I was happy to see at the base of my trees where the chickens had been scratching. I hoped they found some nice juicy pests to devour. Maybe they even did a little fertilizing while they were there. Our chickens, and other birds, are part of my organic gardening methods.

Pooped

Now I’m pretty pooped from patiently pruning peaches and pears! I got a great gardening workout from that, plus a few other things I got done today. I’ll have to prune the apples and cherries another day!

Related Reading

Pruning Peach Trees by Texas A&M Horticulture

Patiently Pruning Peaches and Pears

Spring Garden Surprise ~ A Bunny Tale

Gardening is full of surprises. Many years ago while spring cleaning, I moved some debris within the chives and suddenly my eyes were focusing on some little pink things. My first thought was rats, but then I realized that I was looking at newborn cottontail rabbits.

Carefully, I covered them back up, trying to leave the hidden nest as I had found it. Every day when I was out in the garden I would gently uncover it to see how they were doing, and watched as they grew their hair and began to look more like rabbits.

I couldn’t believe the audacity of mama cottontail who made her nest right smack dab in the middle of my fenced garden! It reminded me of Beatrix Potter’s stories of Peter Rabbit and Mr. McGregor’s garden.

I never saw the mama rabbit. From reading on the internet, I learned that they visit their young for only a few minutes during dawn and dusk to quickly feed them. Baby rabbits are often thought to have been abandoned because the mother is nowhere in sight, but that usually is not the case. You can watch a YouTube video of a mama cottontail feeding her young here.

One day, as suddenly as I had found them, they were gone. Now every spring when I’m preparing for a new season, I’m reminded of that fun little surprise. Nature is so entertaining!

This post has been shared on some of my favorite blog hops.


 

Spring Garden Surprise

Homegrown Salad ~ A Simple Pleasure

I’m excited to be a part of a Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Collection giveaway! For details and to enter, scroll to the end of this article.

There’s nothing like a homegrown salad! Picking fresh greens, plus other goodies, straight out of the garden and combining them into a healthy and beautiful dish is a simple pleasure. It’s fun to make use of odds and ends, and maybe even some edible weeds or flowers. No two salads are exactly alike – each one is a little work of art. I haven’t yet built a cold frame to grow them throughout the winter, so I’m really looking forward to having homegrown salads again.

Lettuces and Other Greens

Salads with a mix of colors are most appetizing to me. For many years, I’ve ordered the Rocky Top lettuce mix from Baker Creek. I also bought some Australian Yellow Lettuce seed for the first time last year. It’s a pretty chartreuse color, and claimed to be more heat-tolerant than other lettuces. I enjoyed it last year so I plan to grow it again. Spinach is another cool-weather crop that makes a delicious and nutritious salad green.

Swiss Chard Seedlings

Swiss Chard is beautiful in salads. If I need to thin them, I throw the thinnings in, or I’ll steal a few small leaves. Did you know that Swiss Chard is basically the same plant as beets? Chard is propagated for its leaves, while beets are developed for their roots.

This and That

Once you’ve got the greens, it’s time to add some other colors, textures and flavors. Last year I grew some Pink Beauty radishes for the first time. I was excited to finally find a radish that I liked! They didn’t have the spiciness that I’ve experienced with most. As a member of the cabbage family, radishes grow best in cooler temperatures of spring and fall. They are fast-growing, maturing in about 29 days, so they’re one of the first harvestable crops. They’re so pretty – radish slices really perk up a salad.
Homegrown Salads ~ A Simple PleasureI like to grow carrots just to add them to salads. It’s very rocky where we live, so I experiment with shorter varieties. Sometimes I’ll pick a few asparagus spears to chop up and throw in.

Magnolia Blossom Tendril Peas

The Magnolia Blossom Tendril Peas were great to include for their sweet crunch.

Walking Onions

Walking Onions and chives are available in early spring, too. Chive flowers are a pretty lavender and are edible. You can also use them to make a flavored vinegar.

Edible weeds

In early spring, when I’m cleaning out my raised beds, many of the “weeds” are edible, and very nutritious. Purslane is the first to come to mind. Baker Creek has two varieties of seed listed in their catalog, and I have a wild one that takes over my garden all on its own. Lambsquarters grows wild and is related to spinach. I sometimes use its small leaves. Just because something grows on its own doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable. I’m trying to rethink weeds, so yes, I occasionally add them to my salads.

Edible flowers

In early spring, dandelions and wild violets pop up around our yard. I plant Nasturtiums every year and they bloom in late spring. There are many edible flowers, but these are a few that I’ve used to adorn my  salads.

Dressing

What better way to dress a homegrown salad, than with a homemade dressing?! Our favorite is Buttermilk Ranch that I make with my own mix. The mix is made using as many of my own dried herbs and seasonings as possible.

Buttermilk Ranch Dressing Mix

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup Black Pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups Parsley Flakes
  • 1/2 cup Garlic Salt
  • 2 Tbsp Kosher Salt
  • 1/4 cup Granulated Garlic
  • 3/4 cup Granulated Onion
  • 2 Tbsp Dill Weed
  • (To make dressing you will need additional ingredients found in "Instructions.")

Instructions

  • Combine all ingredients and store in an airtight container.
  • Makes about 3 1/2 cups of dry mix.
  • To make dressing, combine 2 tbsp of mix with 2 c mayonnaise, 2 c buttermilk, 1 1/2 c sour cream, 1 tsp lemon juice.
  • Tips:
  • I keep powdered buttermilk on hand. When using it, I add the powder in, and then add the water to the desired consistency of the dressing.
  • This recipe makes a lot. For smaller families, you might want to halve the recipe.
  • 1 Tbsp mix can be used in recipes calling for one envelope of ranch dressing mix.
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Great for Beginners

You don’t have to have a green thumb or live on a big farm to grow your own salads. Salad greens are easy and can even be grown in containers. Just sprinkle the seeds over the soil. They need cool temperatures and part to full sun. When it gets too warm, lettuces get bitter. You can just cut some leaves as you need them (“cut and come again”), or harvest the whole plant. If you’re gardening with children, plants like lettuces and radishes are great because they grow quickly and are easy to plant and harvest. When children are involved in the growing process, they’re more likely to eat their vegetables. If you’re homeschooling, then it counts as science and there are all kinds of things to be learned through it.

Flea Market Style

I think it’s fun to use a variety of dishes that I pick up at garage sales and thrift stores. Serving with family heirlooms or thrifty treasures, makes salads even more appealing.

Cute little salad plates

Salads are so good for us. Raw foods have nutrients and enzymes that cooked ones don’t. Add the extra freshness and lack of pesticides and there are some great reasons to grow your own. Salad season will be here soon! It’s one of spring’s simple pleasures.

Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Collection Giveaway

Homegrown Salads ~ A Simple Pleasure

I’m teaming up with some of my blogger-friends to give away ten packets of heirloom seeds valued at $49, courtesy of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds! We’re all writing about gardening, so be sure to check out their great posts by following the links to them below.

This giveaway will begin on Monday, Feb 20, at 1:00 am Central time and end on Sunday, Feb 26, at 11:59 pm Central time. Open to US and Canada residents age 18 and over. Please note that seed varieties will vary from the photo.

Enter below by signing in with your email address and following the directions for each entry. We’ve given you a free entry to start. After completing an entry’s requirement, use your browser’s back button to return to this page and move on to the next entry.

One winner will be randomly chosen by Giveaway Tools after the giveaway ends, and we’ll notify the winner with an email sent to the address they used to enter. Winner will have 48 hours to respond with their mailing address. If winner fails to respond, another winner will be chosen. We’ll send the winner’s mailing address to Baker Creek Seeds and they will ship the prize package directly.

 

For more great garden reading, be sure to visit these blogs:

Kathi at Oak Hill Homestead

Michelle at Souly Rested

Kacey at Rustic Ranch Wife

Angela at The Inquisitive Farmwife

Crystal at Homemade Happiness

Nadine at Making Her Mama

Homegrown Salads ~ A Simple Pleasure