Thursday, January 15, 2015

Gardening in Texas: January

More and more people are asking me questions about gardening because I talk about it a lot and it must seem like I have some answers. Though I cannot proclaim to be an expert and have in fact failed heartily again and again, I thought a post about what you should be doing in your garden in January in Texas might be a good one because I have figured out a few things over the years.

 I keep reading blog posts about what you should be doing in your garden in January, but they are for places that have real winters....they advise you to peruse the seed catalogs, make a plan,  then order your seeds. But in Texas it is time to do some work and not only order your seeds, but start them. 

I generally do things kind of willy-nilly and since that hasn't been super successful in the past this year I decided to make a plan and "get it together" maybe you can benefit from my plan too.

The first thing I did was assess the leftover seeds from last year and remind myself to REST when the weather is cold. The thing about January in Texas is that it might be cold one day and 60 degrees the next, you have to rest when you can because winter is pretty short...or at least it occurs in short bursts. You have to pay attention and plan ahead. We "make hay while the sun shines" meaning if the day is warm we drop everything and we work outside. This coming weekend is looking like a lovely one and there is lots of work to be done.

The seed box with old seeds and my little seasonal book.
After assessing my leftovers, I ordered all my seeds January 2nd. This year I used Territorial Seed Company for two reasons: they offer organic seed (so we can avoid bee-killing neonicotinoids) and they are 100% Non-GMO. This is important to us and I'm not going to step up on my soapbox (today) about industrial food and why we should avoid GMO, but you should educate yourself. I ordered my onions and leeks from Territorial Seed Company too, but I always get my potato seed from Wood Prairie Farm.

Three bin composting.
The other big job in January is prepping the beds (esp. the potato bed), spreading the finished compost, and building new compost piles. As soon as things green up, I will put my composting in high gear, bagging green grass clippings to mix  with the "brown" parts (ie. poop and hay) to really get the pile steaming hot. For now, I just concentrate on putting leaves, dead plants, etc. in the bin. I try to tidy up during this time...For example, I still have dead okra stalks in the garden and just a week ago cut down the dead asparagus tops.The goal is to have one finished bin in the winter and have one ready to layer with greenies in the Spring. 

Finished compost will go on the asparagus bed and potato beds first and then to other beds that were less than productive last year. I never have enough for every bed, but I get pretty close!


Another January task is to nurture along the two cold frames with lettuce, radishes, beets, spinach, and cilantro. These cold frames need very little tending. In fact, I keep them closed and warm most of the time. I try to only open them for watering on sunny days. This weekend we are expecting 60 degrees, so I'll crack the windows to let some heat escape and water them thoroughly.

In January, we also build any new beds we want for Spring planting. We build beds year round, but January is a big push to get new areas prepped for sowing seed and transplanting in March. With the coming warm weekend, I'll also be cleaning out the barn of waste hay and poop. This will be used for hugelkultur beds and for sheet mulching some beds that are around the foundation of the house. Yes, I know what you are thinking, "She's going to spread the poopy barn hay around her house." Yep, poop by the house.... I'm just starting to see the benefits of this practice after a year, but sheet mulching has killed the weeds and grass and is now composting slowly to amend the terrible soil they brought in for the foundation. The best part: I have done NO WORK at all besides dumping the hay/poop mulch. I will be able to plant those spaces this year and all I had to do was dump some mulch and WAIT....seriously, why have I ever done anything else?



Once the seeds arrive I divide them into things that need to be started (in my NEW greenhouse!!!!) and things we will direct sow later. I used a Seed Starting Plan to determine when to start each plant. Here's my plan:

For Texas:
From Jan 2nd to the 16th: Cabbage, Collards, Kale, Parsley, and Peppers
From Jan. 16th to the 30th: Broccoli, Cauliflower, and Eggplant
Jan 30: Tomatoes

I'll be starting seeds in the next few days (yeah, I know I'm already going to be a little late on my schedule) and I'll post pics and progress as we go.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Working with Wool: Pincushion Class on February 12th

As promised in a previous post, I'll be teaching more and more classes this year as a way to generate income for the farm. This farming business isn't cheap and so far the girls aren't supporting themselves!

The next class I'm offering will be the cute little pincushion. It is a pre-cut kit and perfect for beginners who want to learn to work with wool felt. We will learn a few basic stitches, do a little practicing, and by the end of class you will have a finished pincushion.



This class will be offered through Patti's Last Resort in Acton TX 
on February 12th. 
11am. to 3 pm.
Call them for details and to sign up:
817-326-3287

If this doesn't appeal to you, then stay tuned because I'm working on several more fun ideas....hint, hint: I love smock aprons ;)


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Owl Tree Farm Etsy Shop

It's official; Owl Tree Farm now has an Etsy shop and I'll be filling it with handmade goodies! You can find us here:Owl Tree Farm Etsy 




Monday, January 5, 2015

Come Sew with Me: Last Saturday String Along 2015.

Introducing the Last Saturday String-Along for 2015.

One of the goals for this year is for the farm to begin generating income. I've brainstormed list after list of ways that I can do this. I'm a teacher at heart, always willing to show or explain how to do something, so at the top of the list is always: teach classes. 

I've been quilting since I was 18 (ugh, almost 30 years) and have attempted to keep the old-fashioned way of quilting alive. I am passionate about preserving the old, slow ways of doing things. I've accumulated a lot of knowledge about what I call homesteading skills.

The first thing I'm going to teach is String Piecing. String quilts were popular from the 1890s until about 1940. Using every last scrap of fabric speaks to my frugal farmer's philosophy of "using it up, wearing it out, making it do, or doing without." 

The String Quilt is also a perfect beginning quilting because using such wonky scraps is forgiving and accuracy isn't crucial. You will become more comfortable with your machine (if you aren't already), learn a few new-fangled techniques and use a few new-fangled gadgets, but generally speaking this is old-school, traditional piecing at its best!

A String quilt pieced by my Great-Grandmother, Mamaw.

Last Saturday String-Along 2015.
Date: January 31st (the last Saturday of the month)
Location: Owl Tree Farm
Time: 1:00pm to 4:00pm
Price: $40.00
BYOS: bring a snack to share...preferably organic, local, seasonal, etc.....(we are farmers after all). I will provide tea and water.

In this class you need only bring your simple sewing machine, thread, and a pair of scissors. Your class fee will cover equipment and materials and I will prep this all before hand. You will have access to my abundant and ever-growing collection of Strings for piecing your blocks like the one below and I only buy high-quality 100% cotton quilting fabric.

The January goal will be to teach you all you need know to make these wonderful blocks on your own and you will leave with at least two of them finished. 

If you decide to continue and String-Along with me, I'll help you decide how big to make your quilt, how to place your blocks and sew the rows together. Making just two blocks each month (plus one more) will give you 25 blocks and a quilt of 60" X 60"....a nice lap size.




If you decide to String-along with me, I will open my home on the last Saturday of each month and share my Strings with you for $5.00 each time. Of course, you can bring your own Strings too for sharing. (I will prep your foundation fabric for an additional $5.00 for two blocks). 

We will spend the afternoon from 1:00pm to 4:00pm sewing, chatting, and snacking. 


Don't worry about finishing the quilt....I can help you do that too! If you String-Along with me 10 out of 12 months, I'll give you the Hand-Quilting 101 Class for FREE.

If you are interested, contact me via email: jen.owltreefarm@gmail.com OR our Owl Tree Farm Facebook page (don't forget to "like" us while you are there).