Welcome to the Farm! {grow your own food}

I think we all know by now that I pretty much live on a farm. My 25-year-old city-girl self would never have believed that this is where I’d be 5 years later– in the middle of nowhere with a pen full of quails, a compost bin and a backyard beehive. Not that I’m complaining. I’m learning to embrace the dirt and bugs and bee stings. And I certainly don’t mind fresh produce, eggs and local honey! But yeah. Sometimes I still wonder, who am I?

Garden Tomatoes

I haven’t done a garden update in a while (although it’s going strong– stronger than ever), and I’ve had a few people asking about the bees and quails. So I thought I’d wrap it all up in a little overview of the farm I like to call my house.

Now, even though we live kinda in the middle of nowhere, it’s not like we have a ton of land. We live on the somewhat urban side of suburbia, our yard is measured in square feet not acres, and I can read my neighbor’s morning newspaper through my kitchen window. What I’m saying is… our backyard is pretty small. Our neighbors hear every last male quail conquest (at least they aren’t as loud as chickens?) and smell every bit of cow poop plopped down in the garden. Sorry, neighbors. Our yard may be small, but we haven’t wasted a single inch!

It’s really fun and rewarding growing your own food. Honestly it’s not really that cost effective (especially since we mostly have no clue what we’re doing… aka lots of trial and error and Home Depot trips), but it’s a great hobby and it’s nice to know where your food comes from and how it was grown! Plus my favorite perk– it makes grocery shopping much less frequent. I loathe grocery shopping. I can almost always come up with a meal just by opening my freezer and pantry and walking out to the backyard to supplement.

Home grown cherry tomatoes

Here’s a list of the foods we’ve produced over the last year! Obviously veggies are the most plentiful, but we’ve also done lots of herbs and a few fruits!

It's easy to grow your own food!

The Garden

First let’s do a quick garden update! We mostly planted the same stuff we planted last summer. We didn’t plant any pattypan squash or okra because we had so much last year we were sick of it (and I still have some of both in the freezer!). We only planted a couple of each zucchini and yellow squash since we had way too many last year, but guess what? Even with only a couple plants we still have too many!

Rainbow Chard in the Garden

Delicious Rainbow Chard

A couple new things we tried this summer– potatoes and corn!

We planted both baby red potatoes and purple potatoes (because they are awesomely fun). I recently harvested and roasted the first batch of potatoes. Man, oh man. I’m not sure I’d ever had super fresh potatoes before. According to some Google research, they call them “new potatoes” and they are out of this world. So moist, creamy and tender. I’ve never had a better tasting potato. I’m not sure if you can plant these year-round, but we will definitely be planting more! I don’t foresee getting sick of these delicious little bites of heaven. #ilovecarbs

Garden Potatoes

The corn has been an interesting project. The first cob we picked was a mutant! We thought the cob felt weird, so we decided to pick it and check it out, even though it might not be ready yet (part of our trial-and-error technique). When we pulled back the husk, we saw not one but FOUR cobs growing!

Mutant corn on the cob!

There was one main sort-of-normal-sized cob and three baby cobs growing out the bottom of the husk!! So strange!! We’ve since picked a second cob that looked normal and tasted just dandy, and the rest should be ripe for the pickin’ pretty soon.

Meet the Quails

I wasn’t sure if the plural of “quail” was quail or quails… they both sounded kind of right. Well, turns out you can use either one. So I’m gonna go with quails. And now I’ve typed the word quail too many times and it just looks strange.

Raising Quail in your Backyard

Moving on.

We’ve had the quails for over a year now and I still don’t love them. I am just not a bird fan, even when they give me delicious eggs and meat. But… as long as Nick takes care of them, I’ll deal. We’ll have probably anywhere from 15 to 40 quails at a time. Right now we have about 15 adults laying and giving us about 7-8 eggs a day, and another 20-ish younger ones who are getting plumped up for slaughter. Ha. It’s sad, but… circle of life. They have a good life eating garden greens and extra veggies (they especially love beet greens, squash/zucchini and watermelon)!

The quails live in the “quail jail,” which Nick and his cousin built. They have automatic waterers connected to the hose and big feeders, so they’re pretty self-sustaining. When Nick’s gone, all I have to do is collect the eggs and fill their food every 4 or 5 days. Their poop goes into our compost bin or straight onto crops that love high nitrogen soil (corn!).

The Quail Jail

The funny thing about using the quail poop as fertilizer… we’ll have squash and watermelon plants sprouting up in random places from seeds that the quails ate and didn’t digest. For the longest time we were trying to figure out why watermelons were sprouting up all over the garden. Then it dawned on us!

One chicken egg is equal to about 4 quail eggs, so right now we are getting about 2 “chicken eggs” per day. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but they definitely collect in the fridge a lot faster than we can use them. I use a lot when I bake, but we definitely give a lot away too.

Quail Eggs

The Bees

Nick got the idea for bees from a crazy friend (the same friend who turned him on to quails, coincidentally). We just got the bees last weekend, so I’ll be interested to see how the project goes. The beekeeper that we bought the bees from is allergic to bees (!!!) so he has to wear a bee suit at all times, even when the bees aren’t aggressive. Yikes. That might actually be a more dangerous profession than fighter pilot?

Backyard Beekeeping

I don’t blame him for wearing the suit, because I got stung the first night. Not a great way to kick this thing off.

Nick got his bee boxes from his buddy who gave him the bee idea. The boxes hadn’t been cleaned out/harvested yet, so Nick went ahead an did it and we ended up with a couple gallons of honey. I guess getting stung a time or two is worth tons of fresh honey?

Luckily we aren’t keeping the bees at our house. We have a friend who lives on a lot of land right near a bunch of orchards, so we put the boxes in a little corner out there. They should be happy bees with all those orchards blooming!

Edible Landscaping

We also have a few food-producing plants that we worked into our landscaping. We had to replace a few bushes and trees last summer, so Nick decided to replace them with useful bushes and trees! We’ve got a bunch of blueberry bushes that gave us delicious berries this spring, and an Asian pear tree ripening up for the end of summer.

Asian Pear Tree

Well… I think that just about covers it. If I could find a way to get some dairy (I shouldn’t even say that because Nick really wants a goat… uhm, no) and some wheat for flour, I’d be pretty much self-sustaining. Maybe one day when we’re rich and live on 5 acres…

For now, I’ll just enjoy my veggies!!

Do you garden or raise animals for food? What’s your favorite thing to grow/produce? Any tips for me?

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Comments

  1. says

    I love this post. We just moved last fall. This is the first summer for us. We did one raised bed to see how it goes. Hopefully well and in the future we will add. I really want chickens. Still have to check out though if we can in our town and neighborhood. I am totally impressed with that quail house.

    • jessfuel says

      So we got quails initially because we thought chickens weren’t allowed within city limits… turns out they are after all, but I’m glad we have the quails instead because they’re not as loud!! Good luck with your garden!!

    • jessfuel says

      Well, if your zucchinis are even a quarter as productive as mine, you’ll have more than enough! Good luck!!

    • jessfuel says

      Thanks! We might add a cherry tree this year too, especially since they are SO pretty when they bloom in the spring!

  2. says

    Jess, I am loving your blog. I am so jealous of all the beautiful produce you are able to grow (even though I would probably kill everything if I were in your shoes, ha). I bet cooking and baking with quail eggs is quite interesting. I’ve never even had a quail egg, but I’ve always loved the way they look :). Such a fun post!!

    • jessfuel says

      The quail eggs are pretty similar but they’re a little more yolk-y tasting. Since I’m not a huge fan of hard boiled egg yolks, I don’t love them that way… but in baking you can’t tell any difference! :) They seem to be trendy at sushi restaurants right now… they don’t carry salmonella like chicken eggs, so you can eat them raw… if you’re brave?

  3. says

    I loved reading all of this! You have quite the farm going! Jealous of all the different fruits and veggies you have. We’re moving next weekend to a house on almost an acre of land, and my mind is SWIRLING with everything I want to grow. Love that you did potatoes, because that was one of the things I was thinking of trying since we have so much dirt. How has it been growing potatoes? Teach me your ways!

    • jessfuel says

      The potatoes are SO EASY! They do need loose, sandy soil. Our soil is really hard clay-type stuff, so they wouldn’t have worked in the ground, but our raised beds were perfect. I definitely suggest raised beds if you plan on growing stuff all year round and plan on doing it for a while. They’re worth the initial work! Plus, if you have that much land I’m guessing you have a lot of critters around, so it’ll be easier to keep them out.

  4. says

    I love the update on your garden/mini-farm! I’d be curious to see a diagram of what your yard looks like.

    My husband and I really want to grow some things in our yard. I’m not sure what we could expect to thrive out here in El Paso, but maybe we’ll give it a try when he gets home. Seeing how successful y’all have been and recently reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma has me inspired.

    • jessfuel says

      I’m not sure what the weather there’s like, but we pretty much live in the dessert and can grow anything. As long as you use good soil and keep up with watering, you should be OK, at least during the summer when there’s obviously no frost. I just finished In Defense of Food, so I should read OD soon too…. definitely changes the way you think about some things, but what kills me is that so much of it is a big fat “DUH” and yet… most people just don’t get it!

  5. says

    I just (finally) planted our first garden in our new home and am so excited. I go out every day and walk my little postage stamp back yard. I’m so impressed with how productive you’ve made your back yard!! And I totally wish we had quail. Or chickens. But my husband won’t even discuss it :-(

  6. says

    Your farm is so awesome!! I had no idea that i was so big and that you had some many projects going! I’m jealous! I have a small cherry tomato plant with a few tomatoes on it, but nothing like the huge patch that you have! I bet it would be amazing to live around all of that! Thanks so much for letting us peak into your life :)

  7. says

    I love this! I agree that my 25-year-old-self would have been as surprised by our adult ways as well. We are gardening more now that I’m not traveling for work every other week this summer! We have a few tomato varities, cucumbers, zucchini, and herbs. This is year 1 for compost so I’ll be glad when that helps our soil a bit more. My parents are getting hens so I cannot wait for fresh eggs!

  8. says

    Love the little farm update and the beautiful photos of your garden and quails! I think it’s such a great thing to know where your food comes from – can’t get any closer to home then your own backyard! :)

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