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Build a Mini PVC Pipe Garden House

Saturday, March 7, 2015
posted by Jenn

For many years I had trouble with birds (and my own chickens) getting into the garden and eating tender vegetable plants as they emerged from the soil. And, in the colder months I wanted to extend the growing season and protect my crops from frost. I wanted to install a hoop house, the kind I’d seen in magazines or while driving back country roads, but they were too large for one person to manage and too expensive for my limited budget.

I wanted something lightweight, easy to move and something I could make myself with supplies I might already have on hand.

I looked around the farm to see what I could use and hoped that an idea would come to mind. Sure enough, it did. As I stared at my raised beds I thought of a mini greenhouse type structure that could be draped with bird netting in the growing season and float cloth or plastic to extend my plantings.

Here’s what I came up with:

A PVC frame that fits over my 4’x8’ raised beds and is held in place by “C” brackets screwed to the wooden vegetable bed frame. A 10’ piece of PVC runs the length of the uprights to keep the covering draped properly over the frame. At ground level it can be tacked to the wooden vegetable bed or covered with dirt or rocks to keep it from blowing off.

How I made it:

I cut 4 pieces of PVC pipe 2 feet long; two for the sides and two, half the width of the vegetable bed, to make the peaked top. This would be wide enough to reach across the bed and give good clearance for taller plants like lettuce, broccoli or tomatoes. I then assembled the greenhouse frame using 45 degree PVC pipe fittings (these were on hand, but 90 degree might work better on the legs). Once I tested the greenhouse, to see if it did what I thought it would, I glued all the pieces together. I made 3 frames for each 8’ bed.

To install my newly made mini-greenhouse, I screwed “C” brackets into the vegetable bed frame about 6-inches from each end and in the middle of the bed (about the 4’ mark), I then zip tied a 10’ piece of PVC pipe down the middle to keep the peaks upright and to keep any covering from falling in on the plants.

In less than an hour, using the supplies I had on hand, I made enough frames to cover four of my eight vegetable beds; protecting my crops from marauding chickens and scavenging birds.

5 Ways to Preserve your Carrot Harvest

Thursday, September 17, 2015
posted by jenn


I sat at the patio table organizing my stash of vegetable seeds, sorting by like kinds and those that were out of date. Without thinking I decided to sprinkle an old package of carrot seeds in my patio wash tub garden, not thinking what would happen if the seeds were still viable. When I say out of date I mean years, like 3, out of date.

I suppose I thought not many of them would be good and only a few would sprout. Man was I wrong, dead wrong!

It was kind of exciting to see a few green shoots emerge from the compost rich galvanized tub a week or so later. But, as time went on the sprouts multiplied and before I knew it the entire tub was covered with a feathery green carpet. I was not expecting a good portion of the seeds to sprout, that I can tell you. By now it was clear…I would have a bumper carrot crop, but in a potted garden instead of a raised bed.

As time went on and the feathery tops grew it occurred to me that at harvest time I would have more carrots than a one person household could handle. I needed a plan and I needed one FAST!

Fortunately, I love carrots, but honestly who needs that many fresh carrots…all at one time.

I mulled it over in my head and did a bit of research, then went back and forth trying to decide what to do. It was exciting to find several very useful ways to preserve my orange harvest, ones that would fit nicely with the kinds of dishes I use carrots in. That was a relief, I can tell you.

So here are five ways to preserve your carrot harvest, whether it’s small or large.

1.)    Leave them in the ground

How easy is that? My temperate climate lends itself well to just leaving carrots in the ground for quite a while. In colder climates, though, carrots can be covered with a thick layer of straw or leaves, about a foot deep, then covered with plastic, a tarp or even a small hoop house. If you live in an extremely cold area you can add an extra layer of mulch just to be safe. These thick layers will help insulate the carrots while the covering will help keep them from getting overly wet and rotting. When it’s time to use a few, simply move the mulch away from the tops and pull as many as you need, then push the mulch back into place. Easy, right?

2.)    Store them in a root cellar

Root crops do especially well in root cellars. The trick to holding them for a long time is to leave them as natural as possible, meaning don’t was them. When they are harvested, gently brush off the excess dirt, trim the tops to about 2-inches and store them in a single layer in sand, straw or shavings. Make sure, though, that the shavings have not been treated with any anti-flammable substance. For best results and long storage the root cellar temperature should be consistently between 35-40 degrees and have plenty of humidity. Under the right conditions carrots should keep for about 4 to 6 months in a cellar.

If you don’t have a cellar, like me, check out the link below for a simple root cellar perfect for the suburban homesteader. Or, you can cellar them in the fridge. Simply harvest, brush off excess soil and trim then store carrots in a zip lock bag or a shallow lidded container.

They won’t keep as long in the fridge, but you should have fresh carrots for several months at least.

3.)    Freeze your carrots.

With a little bit of prep work carrots freeze very well. Wash thoroughly before cutting off tops and peeling. Slice or dice into desired size or cut into sticks, then blanch them for 3-minutes in boiling water. Remove from boiling water and immediately plunge them into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. Cool completely before placing carrots into plastic freezer containers or bags. Frozen carrots work great in soups, stews, pot pies or casseroles.

If you don’t mind a little bit more work, place carrots on a parchment lined cookie sheet in a single layer and freeze. This way they freeze individually and are easier to pull out a small amount if that’s all your recipe calls for. I freeze my carrots this way because it’s the easiest method if I don’t have a large batch of carrots all at once.

4.)     Traditional canning works, too.

Carrots are a low-acid vegetable and needs to be pressure canned if you choose this method. However, if you choose to make pickled carrots you can use the regular water bath method.

To pressure can carrots…

Wash thoroughly, removing all dirt then trim tops and peel.

Pack carrots into hot sterilized jars, and fill with boiling water leaving a 1-inch headspace. For my one person house I use primarily ½-pint and pint jars, but families may want to use larger jars.

Processing time & pressure…

Pints – 25 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure

Quarts – 30 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure

5.)    Dehydrate your carrots.

Carrots lend themselves very well to being dehydrated, to be used later in many crock pot or casserole dishes, even baked goods like muffins and cakes. To dehydrate carrots, wash, trim and peel as in the other suggestions, then blanch them for 3-minutes in boiling water and dry completely before placing them on the drier tray. Place in a single layer at 125 degrees and dry until they are almost brittle.


There you have it, five ways to have the great taste of carrots in your winter dishes and baked goods.

Check out this post to learn how to make a simple mini green house for your garden beds.

Winter Preps Complete!

Thursday, November 14, 2013
posted by jenn

It’s been a wild few weeks between work speeding up and trying to get my winter preps done before the real craziness begins. But, this past weekend marked the completion of all the big winter prep projects and a few not-so-important ones.

I have 2 cords of seasoned and split firewood stacked outside the farmhouse door, with 2 more waiting in the wings. I just have to pick them up.

The summer garden and pumpkin patch has been pulled up and composted. All the fences and trellises for vining crops have been stored. The hoop house frame has been re-installed. Nights are not cold enough and days are too warm to put the bed cover on, but at least having the frame up will make adding the cover easier and faster. The patio garden, planted with kale, chard, radishes and broccoli raab is already3-inched tall. Cool weather crops will be planted in the small raised bed near the barn. I’ll have to wait for the first rains to amend the fruit trees and berry patch. The grapes have been pruned and the fruit trees lightly trimmed. They’ll get a better pruning in February.

The chicken coop and nesting boxes have been cleaned out and re-bedded. The litter was spread on the old pumpkin/squash patch and will be turned in as soon as my loving family brings my tiller back. 200 pounds of chicken feed should get us through the next several months and the coop wire was checked for needed repairs. I pulled out the heat lamp from its storage box and installed it in the coop, partly for extra light to encourage egg laying and partly for colder weather.

The area outside the barn was raked, buckets and troughs stored, sprinklers were put away and hoses coiled up. We don’t get many freezing nights so there is no need to put hoses away.

The truck has new wiper blades, oil changed, smog check done, and anti-freeze added in preparation for our trip to the mountains over Thanksgiving.

There’s been a lot of shopping also. Furnace filters were replaced. Stocks of rice, beans, grains and a few other staples were added to the pantry just to round out what I already had. We also have a whole lamb, 15 chickens cut in halves, quarters or whole, a few pork loin roasts, 6 ducks and quarts and quarts of various soup bases in the big freezer.

I made a batch of apple butter with the heirloom varieties we bought up north and it turned out great. I’m saving the pumpkin for later.

Summer sheets have been replaced with flannel and quilts and down comforters have been added to each bed.

I keep an arrangement of candles in my fireplace during the warmer months, but it has made way for the firewood grate and fireplace screen. Our late, late nights are dipping into the high 40’s, but not early enough in the evening to warrant a fire.

I even managed to paint my potting bench turned beverage bar and the new barn door I built last month. Hopefully I’ll get it hung this weekend.

All-in-all I think we’re in good shape going into the colder months. It certainly is a lot different than prepping 50 sheep, 30 head of cattle, dozens of chickens and hundreds of acres for winter. I’m not quite sure which I prefer.

A farm at rest is an eerily beautiful thing.

Suburban Homesteading – One, Two, Three

Friday, May 1, 2009
posted by Jenn


Three Easy Steps To Get You Started – Homesteading In Suburbia

Part One of a Three Part Series

Starting a suburban homestead can be a daunting task, not to mention gleaning through the mounds of information and trying to scale it down to meet the needs of your suburban homestead. With this in mind, Suburban Homesteading – One, Two, Three will lay out the basic steps for turning your suburban home into a productive homestead.

During the homesteading era of the 1800’s, a family’s primary concerns were to provide shelter, warmth, food and water. But for the modern day suburban homesteader, these are either already provided through the home (i.e. heat and water) or easily accessible as in the case of food from a grocery or big-box store. So, homesteading becomes a choice rather than a necessity. Even though you have time to think about what you want to do as a suburban homesteader, there are still practical steps each family should take. And the first step to take is to PLAN.

STEP ONE – Having the Family Discussion

If you’ve been thinking about turning your humble suburban lot into a thriving, productive “mini-farm,” discuss it with your family first…kids included. It’s difficult to homestead alone, and without the family’s “buy-in,” it can be an uphill struggle.

Talk about the kind of homestead you want to have and how self-sufficient you want to become.

The most important step in a successful homestead that doesn’t overwhelm you is “THE PLAN”. Since this is the beginning stage of the plan, dream big and list everything you want to do, be and have. Don’t worry about having enough space or buying the right supplies, there are plenty of people who grow food on apartment balconies or on condo patios.

Reality will set in soon enough – forcing you to scale down your plans and be a bit more realistic. But, for now, the sky’s the limit.

To help get you talking about the possibilities a sampling of questions you and your family will want talk about is below. As you go through this process, more questions may come to mind. Include any of your own questions along with the answers to the list that is provided. This is by no means all the questions that should be asked. They’re provided just to get you thinking.

The answers to some of these questions will depend on the amount of time and effort you want to dedicate, and can dedicate to your homesteading venture.

Be sure to write down your answers so you’ll have them for future steps in the process.

Grow Fresh Greens Throughout the Winter

Tuesday, September 15, 2009
posted by Jenn


Just starting out on your journey to a more self-reliant life? Live in a home with very limited growing space? Or, looking for a fall and winter garden closer to the backdoor? How about trying a salad box?

Read more about these compact, easy to make mini gardens that will produce a bounty of salad greens and root vegetables throughout the cooler fall and winter months.

If carpentry isn’t your forte try using plastic storage boxes or recycled wooden boxes. For extra creativity any container will suffice (wagon, wheelbarrow, old bath tub) as long as it has drainage holes in the bottom and is large enough for the amount of greens you want to grow.

I use an old livestock watering trough with holes punched in the bottom. (For areas with harsher climates try adding hoops and greenhouse plastic to make mini hot houses.)


Creative Commons License photo credit: Foto Iervolino