Josh’s Farm Update: July 2021

With Redneck offering regular updates from his farm, I thought it was only fitting to update everyone on how my mini-farm is doing. It’s been a rough summer. I spent a couple of weeks away because my wife was in the hospital, but thankfully everything lived. But I haven’t had as much time for maintenance as I would like.

First, the raspberries. Two are doing great. I think one is either dead or dormant because I foolishly ripped out additional shoots thinking they were lookalike weeds. They didn’t have spines like the other raspberry plants. Oops. If it doesn’t come back, I may replace it with a strawberry. Ben Falk recommends planting a variety of perennials next to your house as well as in the field, so you have indicators letting you know when they’re ready to pick.


I have six raised beds. The first two are up against my house. The first bed was supposed to be growing lettuce. I tried the MIGardener technique of sowing thick bands of lettuce to fill the bed. Sadly, that didn’t work well at all, so now I need to replant it with something else. However, my marigolds are doing great.


However, the herb bed with rosemary, parsley, and dill is doing great. The dill has been surprisingly useful for fermenting, so I’ll definitely grow it again. If only I could get it staked properly so it doesn’t fall over. I tried cilantro in this bed, but it just wasn’t having it.


Pole beans are doing well, though they haven’t produced much yet. The PVC trellis has not held up well. I had to support the center with a metal t-post and even then it still falls apart at times. I’ll build something much more substantial (and less plastic) next year. I hung a bird feeder to help with a slight Japanese beetle infestation, but the birds aren’t taking the bait.


On the other side of the beans are a bunch of pepper plants and they’re already giving me some little peppers, which my oldest son will be very excited about. I have some experimental chard that was swallowed by the beans, and some small basil plants in between the peppers.


Cucumbers look terrible and have struggled with disease, but are producing well. The peppers alongside them are producing as well. This bed struggles to stay moist, probably because it is a completely no-till bed. The beds I double-dug or broadforked are doing much better.


On the other side of the cucumbers and peppers are some onions, lettuce, and golden giant amaranth. The amaranth has shaded the lettuce and kept it from bolting. Unfortunately, the last bunch I picked was incredibly bitter, probably due to heat. The rabbits like it though.


This mess of greens is German Pink tomatoes. They’re coming along nicely and I’m just waiting for them to ripen. The purple thing is basil, which I need to trim. The other purple stuff is “chinese spinach,” a type of amaranth. This bed was double-dug and then filled with compost and doesn’t dry out often.


The sweet potatoes seem to be doing great in this bed. A thick layer of grass clippings and a living mulch keeps it continually moist. I stuck a few marigolds in there that have grown above the canopy.


Next up: chickens, rabbits, grapes, and trees.


  • Comments (10)

    • 3

      I used to keep my small flock of chickens in little chicken tractors, but once I added roosters to the mix, chickens started dying. I invested in an electronet fence from Premier 1, which gives them a lot more room. In theory, I can move it, but one hen has gone broody, so I just move the sides over, mow, and then put the fence back.


      From a flock of 8, I was down to three Australorps: one rooster, one laying hen, and one hen that doesn’t lay. A friend was drowning in eggs, so she sold me a couple of her production reds. They are vivacious little things and good layers.


      I have 15 chicks due in a couple of weeks: a mix of new layers and meat birds. I may end up with more than I know what to do with.

      The latest addition to the farm are rabbits. I have one older buck and two does.


      I’ve been breeding them already, so hopefully, I’ll have a new batch in a month. Here is the buck and a doe in a post-coital embrace. If you struggle with depression, I recommend breeding rabbits, because rabbit sex is hilarious.


      • 2

        Happy to hear that most of the garden has survived! The buns and chickens look happy as well. 

        Why are you keeping the rooster if the hens keep dying? Does it kill them?

        Are these going to be meat buns? What’s the plan for them?

      • 2

        I think the rooster either killed them accidentally or freaked out due to stress. The standard recommendations for space per chicken are fine for hens, but go out the window when you have a rooster. Everything seems fine now, and I keep the rooster around for protection from predators. I was gone for many days without closing them up, so either the electric net or the rooster kept everyone safe.

        The rabbits will be for meat, yes. I helped my friend process some before he sold them to me just to make sure I could handle it.

    • 3

      You may recall my article on melon pits. Unfortunately, not long after I published that, a rabid possum ate not only the materials in the pits, it also ate the dirt! I had to buy some bagged soil to fill the holes back in. Squash are growing so-so.

      Here is a luffa plant. The packet warned of low germination. I put about 30 seeds into the mound to get this one vine.


      The delicato squash is doing well, and I have some fruit growing. The seed came from a local CSA, so it’s adapted to this environment.


      I won’t bore you with all of my squashes, but here’s one I transplanted from a neighbor’s garden. I’m surprised it lived, since squash doesn’t transplant well. Even wilder, I didn’t dig anything! I literally pulled out compost from my pile, threw it down, and put a squash plant into it.


      Speaking of compost, here’s my system. I took an old fence I built for some reason and cut it down into bins. I have one pile pretty much good to go and I’m working on a second. If I clear the cardboard and other crap from the first bin I can have three piles.


      Here is a butternut squash that grew on its own, with no help from me. It’s fruiting! I’m not going to mess with it.


      I’m experimenting with a couple of grape plants in my fence row. I planted a Lakemont seedless and a Mars seedless, both from Tractor Supply. I pruned both down to almost nothing after planting, but they’re growing like crazy. I figured if I didn’t grow anything in the fence row, nature would do it for me, usually something spiky or some sort of invasive tree.


    • 3

      I have seven trees growing up on the hill, but otherwise I don’t mess with it. I’ve let it grow a bit, partially because I don’t have time to cut it, but also because I was curious what would grow.

      The answer? Walls of blackberries. These are all blackberries and they are producing fruit. I’ll come back up to harvest later in July.


      Here is a chestnut and a mulberry, growing in tubes.


      The chestnut is slow-growing, but I had to take the bird net off the mulberry tube because the plant had grown up against it!


      This pear tree is doing well. I need to scythe around it and pile up the cuttings as a mulch. I did that for the first two trees, but haven’t had time since. Plus it’s miserably hot.


      I don’t know what these flowers are, but the bees love them, so I’ll scythe around them.


      This other pear tree seems to be getting along okay.


      As is the peach tree. I need to trim that errant limb and see if I can get it to root.


      Well, that’s pretty much it for now!

      • 4

        The orange flowering plant looks like Asclepias tuberosa, butterfly weed. In the milkweed family, so good for monarch butterflies as well as the bees. 

      • 1

        I just picked up the Peterson field guide to medicinal herbs, and your ID seems spot on.

    • 4

      Congrats.  It is way cool to see folks growing their own food.  As you state, along the way you have success & failure.  You learn from both.

      With insect invasion, Spinosad is my friend.

      • 2

        I’ve been hosing the beans and cucumbers down with Spinosad, but it hasn’t eliminated the Japanese beetles, only maybe mitigated them. They’re really only eating the top of the beans, so not a big deal. They were chewing on the grape leaves, but the spinosad took care of them there.

      • 3

        Sometimes it can take a few weeks of spraying every few days to stop the invasion.  You have to keep spraying because the Spinosad will kill the current generation of bugs, but successive generations will hatch over the next few weeks.   Also make sure to spray very late in the day, at dusk.  If sprayed directly on a pollinator, it can kill them.  All pollinators are gone at dusk, so that is the time to spray.  The Spinosad will then dry, and the next day won’t harm a pollinator.  It will only kill whatever takes a bite out of your plants.

        For bad infestations, I sometimes ad some BioAdvanced Vegetable & Garden spray to the tank.  It will kill on contact.  Spinosad is much safer but sometimes you just need to kill the bugs quickly.  I find it works well on adult squash bugs where Spinosad is best on the little fellows that just hatched.