Red Bucket Farm is an urban farm on a quarter acre property in an average residential neighborhood. We are located in Wisconsin, USDA Zone 5. We focus on chickens, bees, orchard fruit, and raised garden beds for fruits and veggies. We hope to reduce our footprint on the planet by growing some of our food, reducing our use of fossil fuels, and gardening with sustainable practices. Thanks for visiting!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Drying Herbs

As the growing season slowly comes to an end, I'm experimenting with drying herbs for cooking use as well as for my chickens.

A farm colleague has suggested that using dried herbs in the hen house over the winter will help discourage mites or creepy crawlies and will certainly help the fragrance in that crowded space. For that goal, I've been harvesting the herbs that are underplanted in my front yard orchard--oregano, lemon balm and lavender. It's important to keep these herbs separate from those designated for human consumption because the front yard is subject to every dog in the neighborhood. 'Nuff said?

Other herbs at the farm have been living comfortably in the green house--basil, sage, rosemary, and chives. These I can dry and crush, then store in jars in the kitchen.

The process of drying herbs is simple. I cut the stems into a size that will fit in my large roasting pan and place it in a cool oven at 140 degrees Fahrenheit with the fan running. (I have a convection oven.) I prop the oven door open an inch or so to allow moisture to escape, checking on them periodically. The timing will vary depending on the herb and quantity being processed. When it all seems a bit crunchy, I take it out of the oven and gently pull the leaves off the stems. Then I crush it with my hands and place it in storage containers. The herbs for use in the hen house are stored in large plastic bags in the freezer.

Drying herbs in the oven makes my house smell fantastic. It's quicker than the traditional method of hanging bunches of herbs in the basement or garage, which (for me) usually results in messy bits of dropped leaves and stems. Give this a try!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Bee Hatch

The red hive in the foreground and the green hive in the background are both exhibiting new hatches of bees. Notice most of the bees are taking short flights in little circles right at the hive entrances. These are known as orientation flights as the new bees get to know their surroundings. Soon these bees will begin taking longer flights.

Although the hives are slimming down in preparation for winter, it's good to see new bees and know that the queens are all alive and well.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Fall Crops

One of the challenges of urban farming is learning how to keep all the garden beds productive through the fall months.

This morning's harvest was a continuation of late summer crops---tomatoes, beans and elderberries. About two dozen butternut squash remain on the vines. The fall-bearing raspberries ("Heritage Everbearing") are producing heavily, unlike the summer raspberries ("Nova" and "Latham") which produced almost nothing. We're not sure if that is the result of a harsh winter or uninformed pruning.

After harvesting potatoes, onions and garlic in mid-summer, I replanted those beds with bok choy, spinach, Swiss chard, scallions and beets. Most of these were started by seed in the greenhouse and were ready for transplant when the root crops were harvested. This is the tricky part---knowing when to seed so fall crops are ready to transplant to available beds. I've found that sowing fall crop seeds in the greenhouse in early July is helpful, and sowing seeds outdoors in the beds no later than mid-August is most productive. Any later than that, and our daylight is just too limited to get those seeds germinating even if the weather is cooperative.

Now I'm off to the kitchen to process my crops for winter storage.