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Aosom low cost greenhouse

Published by Jollean Smith in Garden Recommendations · 11/10/2020 09:17:17
Tags: GardenGreenhouseAosomHighTunnel

Being able to extend your garden season and even grow all year is glorious. We recently added a mini high tunnel from to our garden and I am incredibly excited about it for this garden season. Here is a quick review of our early findings on the Aosom mini high tunnel and our experience with the purchase of the product.

This was shipped incredibly fast and in good order. No packaging damage and every required piece in the box and accounted for.

It's a large structure. It's not going to be easy, but it wasn’t hard. Well hard for my husband. If I did it alone I might not say the same thing. For the most part one person can do it but at some point you will need two people to hold up ends while the other person connects the pieces. The instructions are visual displays with numbers and not written. In our video we address a couple of spots in the set up that were not clear through the visuals.

You cannot beat the price. We paid just under $190 for a 10x10x20 greenhouse. Look for sales and sign up for email to get additional discounts.

Product Quality
Value for money is absolutely there. FOr what I paid I am sure for a few years I will massively enjoy this greenhouse. Reality check is that it's not a high end product. You have to remember you did not pay a high end price. But value for money is spot on. The greenhouse uses a very light frame and could be easily bent. The zipper is the biggest weak zone and is likely the first thing to go. But the structure is sound and designed well. You most definitely want to reinforce the structure to hold it down in the wind.

Can it withstand wind
Yes but…you have to take some time to secure it yourself. Hurricane Delt came through about a month after we had our greenhouse put up. I will admit I was worried. But we staked down the frame with extra long tent poles and used weighted materials to hold down the sides of the cover and it held through some very intense wind. Now we are inland and not along the coast so it did not have 100 mph wind but it did withstand 50 mph wind. You need to ensure the velcro inside is 100% attached to your structure to keep it from lifting. And you certainly could not install it as is from the box and expect it to be just fine. You have to do your own work to make this structure wind resistant. But that was not hard nor expensive.

What I love
This greenhouse is really spacious. The windows flip up and down easily and the cover seems really solid. It took less than two hours to build and when I was done I could get excited about winter growing. As a market farmer who is just starting out, you cannot beat the affordability. I of course in future hope for a larger and more long term high tunnel, but this will allow me to expand this year while keeping within our means.

What I would change
I wish the greenhouse had doors on both ends. This would allow for greater airflow and less pressure on the use of one door. I would also use a higher quality zipper. I would have paid more for a better zipper for sure.

Important to note
The greenhouse does not come with ground cover or pegs to stake it into the ground. Make sure to get both before you set it up.

Well the Aosom Greenhouse gets two thumbs up for value. I can tell you it has created a new happy place within our garden.

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Three great squash that store for a long time.

Published by Jollean Smith in Vegetables · 4/8/2020 19:17:42
Tags: StoringSquashPreservingCuringVegetables

Not all squash are created equal but three stand out for me for their great ability to be stored. Each year I grow an abundance of squash. They are relatively easy to grow if you can get through the bug pressures.But some squash have a shorter shelf life than others. Yellow squash for most, is preferred fresh. They can have a bit of a shelf life in the fridge unwashed, but the fresher they are the happier my customers are.

But these 3 powerhouse squash can be picked and last for a lot longer, allowing you to stock your pantry with healthy home grown options.

This includes:

  • Spaghetti Squash

  • Acorn Squash

  • Butternut Squash

You can on occasion get an edible pumpkin variety that stores well too. We have had good luck with Long Island Cheese pumpkins.

Good to know.

  • For storing, you should cure your squash (this encourages the moisture to dissipate). This just means letting it sit for 10 - 14 days with good air circulation. This can be inside or outside. Spaghetti squash and Acorn squash do not require curing unless you plan to store them.

  • Keep the stem on for storage.

  • Butternut squash actually tastes better after storing (curing) for 2 months. This is because as the moisture leaves the squash, the sugars within it, intensify.

  • Spaghetti & Acorn squash flavour does not intensify and can be eaten right away after harvest.

  • I have always wiped the outside of my squash with a diluted bleach mixture. 2 tablespoons of bleach to a gallon of water. It is not harmful and helps ensure any mold properties are killed off. Keep in mind you do not eat the outside of your squash. And I never seem to lose a squash to mold.

When you store squash how long do they last?

  • Spaghetti Squash Recommended (3 months) tested by myself (6 months)

  • Acorn Squash Recommended (3 Months)

  • Butternut Squash Recommended and tested by myself (6 months)

Make sure to store them in a cool dark place inside your home. Move them periodically to check for the development of soft spots and to ideally shift their pressure points.

Also, very important, before eating your squash take a small taste test to ensure it is not bitter. NEVER eat bitter squash. Keep reading to learn more about toxic squash.

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Want to keep reading?
Great garden read, a review of The Humane Gardener.
How to get started with baby chickens.

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10 cents from every dollar made at Smith's "Nature Friendly" Farm including ad revenue from Google or Amazon will be donated to the charities we work with. Learn more about how we give back.

We appreciate you joining us. Be friendly. Be kind. Take care.

The misconceptions of who is homeless.

Published by Jollean Smith in Community · 20/7/2020 11:47:12
Tags: HomelessnessAmericaCharityGiveBack

A story of compassion for McComb's most vunerable.

If you ever have the chance to sit down with Sarah Connerly (Greater Hope Homeless Shelter founder and owner) you might be amazed to hear the compassionate stories of her guests.

Recently, at the fundraiser Farmers for Greater Hope an elderly gentleman walked down the street with his newspaper tucked under his arm.  He saw Sarah and she greeted him excitedly and they exchanged happy updates on how things were.

My assumption, he was a friend. Nice guy. Enjoying the beautiful day and on his way for a walk to find a place to enjoy his newspaper.  And yes, he was all those things.

Later, after the event I would sit down with Sarah and we would talk about misconceptions. I ask about the misconceptions I have heard or read about such as “get a job like the rest of us”.

Sarah answers my question with a real life example of who can be homeless.

“Jollean, you remember that elderly man that walked by us today? The one with the newspaper?”

“Yes”. I reply.

Sarah continues, “He is 72 year old. He stayed here for a short time when he was kicked out of his apartment. And let me tell you, he did not want to be here. He told me everyday ‘I am 72 years old, I don’t belong in no homeless shelter’. He had nowhere to go. He spent every day going through his newspaper to look for a place to stay. Got up each day to look for places. We helped him store some of his furniture and belongings”.

Sarah did not ask why he was kicked out of his apartment, her role is not to judge. Her immediate focus is on his need in that moment for a roof over his head.

The majority of people grow up knowing a roof over our head. May not be the prettiest roof but having shelter is usually a norm. Now imagine, a moment in your life that takes away that norm and how you might feel.

No washroom to run to.
No place to hide from rain.
No cooking space.
No electrical outlets to plug something in.
No bed to sleep soundly on behind walls that make you feel secure.

It would be terrifying!

In Mississippi almost 1200 people experience homelessness a day.

There can be many reasons for homelessness. A google search will present you with a plethora of stats that give you a picture of who is most vulnerable.

Sarah has already seen this first hand and without the stats will tell you.

  • Medical conditions.

  • Elderly.

  • Working poor.

  • Young, single males with no family support system.

  • Mental & physical disabilities.

  • Those battling with addictions.

Her story of the elderly gentleman is a great example of why places like Greater Hope need to exist. Transitional homeless makes up the largest reason for the need for shelter. Working poor or those living with incomes with no free cash flow, often have to choose between paying the rent and eating. Or paying the light bill this month vs paying what is owed on the rent. Eventually, it catches up to them and then leaves them in a situation where they are in the short term, homeless.

Greater hope is filling a gap that exists in McComb and surrounding area and throughout the United States to provide transitional shelter for those in their moment of need. She is preventing the most vulnerable from sleeping under bridges and slipping even farther down the path of desperation.

What happened to her 72 year old guest? Well, he is back to living on his own. Within 2 weeks he found a home. He was like most people, determined not to be homeless, he just needed a hand.

We all need a hand now and then. Some of us are blessed with large families, maybe an above average job or maybe both. But at some point in our life we will all need a hand with something. Greater Hope Homeless Shelter is offering a hand to those who have nowhere else to turn.

Sarah cannot do it alone and is always in search of help.

Volunteer, donate and advocate for public services that help those transition from poverty to independence.

To learn more about Sarah and the story of Greater Hope Homeless Shelter visit here or visit her website Greater Hope Homeless Shelter
To donate to the shelter visit here.

As always folks, be friendly. Be kind!

Thanks for reading.

A local Brookhaven business worth supporting.

Published by Jollean Smith in Community · 4/7/2020 09:20:16
Tags: CommunityTeaCompanyShopLocalMississippi

Who knew tea could be so interesting!

This week my lovely friend Rebecca Bates who is not only a garden and landscape expert, but also an outstanding (and award winning) MSU Extension agent, took me to meet two amazing guys who started a tea company in Mississippi, from the ground up.

Jason and Timmy started their tea company after hurricane Katrina. At that time, they had a tree business that suffered immense damage from the storms. It would be easy to run from the complexity of being a grower after suffering such a loss. Everyone would understand. Not these guys, they have incredible resilience.They took the challenge as an opportunity for innovation, to ask the important business question “what can we do differently?”.The answer to their question was tea.

Knowing absolutely nothing about being a tea grower, they decided to embark on a journey to bring tea to Mississippi.

Research, determination, investment and perseverance over the last 8 years has paid off into a budding and growing tea operation. They are one of two tea growers in the state and likely the biggest with The Great Mississippi Tea Company

Their amazing operations.
As I tour their operations I find “impressive” around every corner.

Their attention to detail is spot on, their operations are immaculate. Everything is thoughtfully organized and spotless. Items are beautifully placed to make everything in the room interesting.

The tea shack is full of massive equipment that is used to flavour and dry their teas. They have travelled far to learn the technique of other great tea makers and openly share their learning’s with you as they walk you through their operations. Their expertise is incredibly apparent as you listen to their knowledge of plant science and tea making.  

Timmy  gave me a tour of the tea fields. We hop on their side by side and drive across the road from their Tea Shack to go for a tour of their fields.  They have fields of what looks like hedges that you would line your suburban garden with. Those hedges are tea plants, carefully grown. I am shown a special area that houses many of their young tea plants in development. They baby their plants under shade cloth until it’s the right time to plant them in the ground. They have learned like most of us have through some trial and error how to be better plant parents.

What I appreciated was their humble sharing. Timmy isn’t afraid to show you where they have had problems. Any business owner or gardener knows that to do what they do, there had to be complexities and challenges. Their tour is not a facade of perfection but a true example of hard work and determination.

He drives me around the many acres of fields where more and more tea plants are being added to expand their operations. It’s impressive.

Although Jason and Timmy do on occasion hire local help for the massive amount of work they have, the majority of it to date is completed by them. It’s actually quite unbelievable to think they are growing, making and selling their tea all while maintaining a pristine operation mostly by themselves.

What I learned.
There were so many great learnings on this visit and I would highly recommend taking a tour to truly benefit from the wealth of knowledge they can share. One of the most fascinating things to me was just the understanding of what part of the plant is used to make tea.

To make tea you only harvest the new growth from the tea bush. And each leaf of that new growth makes different types of tea. Oolong tea is made from 6 leaves whereas green tea is made from the tiniest leaf bud. The rest of the plant is too bitter for anything else.

Back at their home, they brew a beautiful set of their teas, each one timed and brewed to the perfect tea temperature. My initial impression is that all of the tea’s are smooth. No slight bitter after taste. The green tea and peach tea were my favourite but none of them will disappoint.

Why you should support them?
Outside of the fact that these are two very nice guys, working very hard to earn a dollar, they are also bringing more local tea options to Mississippi and North America.

The #1 producer of tea in the world is China*, followed by India and Kenya. The amount of transportation required to bring you that tea has environmental impacts. Shortening the distance to your supplier is both beneficial to your community but also the environment.

Food regulations are going to be different in other countries. You can call someone here and get access to our regulations. Heck, call Jason and Timmy and they will tell you, I am sure. When was the last time you called China to ask what kind of soil and fertilizer they use? Or how much pesticides are applied to their plants? It’s a disconnect we often experience when we grab a box of anything from the grocery store shelves.

These guys will create jobs in North America. They are creating products that if one country stops sharing them, you will still have supply. They are local Mississippians and North Americans. And my favourite reason, they are plant lovers and dog lovers, how can you go wrong there.

How can you support them?
Buy their tea of course! They are available locally at Hall & Company in Brookhaven on Monticello St. Or shop online.

You can also get the full experience through one of their many tours. I highly recommend a tour, it is a really nice outing to experience.

Lastly, you can follow them on Facebook, The Great Mississippi Tea Company.

I am so grateful...
As we start on our own journey at Smith’s Nature Friendly Farms to grow into a small business, we cannot help but be inspired by these guys.

To start a garden that produces, is hard. To start a garden that produces in volume, is harder. To start a business with it, even harder.

To be kind, to share your time and knowledge is not hard, but it was incredibly awesome of them.

In the end we are so grateful to Jason, Timmy and Rebecca. Their gift of time was so appreciated by us at Smith’s Nature Friendly Farm.

Support local North American companies, buy from good people doing great things. Where your dollar goes matters.

As always, be friendly, be kind. Thanks for reading.

* Source:

Shop with us!
Smith’s Nature Friendly Farm Store

Want to keep reading?
Check out our bok review of "The Humane Gardener".
Learn how to care for baby chickens.

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Our blog can include Google Advertisements or Amazon affiliate links. These links can generate revenue from Google or Amazon. See our privacy policy to learn more.

10 cents from every dollar made at Smith's "Nature Friendly" Farm including ad revenue from Google or Amazon will be donated to the charities we work with. Learn more about how we give back.

Toxic Squash

Published by Jollean Smith in Vegetables · 30/6/2020 09:55:57
Tags: ToxicSquashVegetableCucumbersPumpkin

So recently one of my customers spurred my curiosity on the subject of toxic squash. I had no idea that the risk of squash becoming toxic was a thing, but turns out, it is. There actually is not a great deal of information on the subject easily found online. But I am going to share with you what I have learned and the #1 rule you will need to know about preventing toxic squash poisoning.

First off for some background. It is important to understand that toxic squash can impact pumpkins, gourds, cucumbers, Butternut, Pumpkin, Zucchini, Gourds and Watermelon. Essentially anything in the Cucurbitaceae family which includes all squash.

How does this happen?
The Cucurbitaceae plant fruit, before human intervention naturally contained a chemical called cucurbitacin. This chemical in the wild was the plants natural defence system against animals that want to consume their squash. Humans modified the squash over time to create strains with low levels of cucurbitacin. (This is essentially an early form of genetic modification).

So how does the toxicity come back?
It is said that it can happen when members of the Cucurbitaceae cross pollinate with “wild” Cucurbitaceae. Now some research says it is also possible with cross pollination with other plants. But this is where the research gets very muddy. There are 3 very public cases of squash poisoning all of which occurred in Europe. A german fellow ate a stew with toxic squash and died and two french ladies ate toxic squash, lost their hair and became violently ill for a month. Now, how their squash became toxic I cannot confirm. Perhaps, wild unaltered squash or their squash was cross pollinated. I have yet to find anything that scientifically states how their squash became toxic.

Should I be worried about toxic squash?

In short, no, I think we need to think rationally here. There is only a small number of cases of illness tied to squash poisoning in the world. And only 3 widely known that had extreme results such as hair loss or death. Some researchers are stating these are the first known cases that were this serious. In a world filled with squash growers, many eating from cross pollinated compost piles and gardens each year and only 3 serious cases are widely known of, the risk seems extremely low. Although, I do recommend being aware of it and being a smart gardening, I don't think people need to panic and start giving up on growing edible squash.

So what should you do to prevent Toxic Squash?
You can start with trying to prevent cross pollination. I would recommend being most careful with gourds cross pollinating with edible squash. If you do have wild cucurbitaceae growing in your area I would definitely be more careful to avoid cross pollination.
Be careful with cucurbitaceae plants becoming heat stressed. This can cause an increase in the toxins developing.

And the #1 rules for preventing Squash Poisoning…
Do a tiny taste test  before eating any squash or squash from the cucurbitaceae family.Never eat it, if it is bitter.

Take a tiny taste of any edible squash before consuming (a very small amount can make you sick so spit it out if it tastes at all bitter). Be especially careful with squash that may get lost in the flavour of something else such as zucchini in a stew or pasta sauce. Taste test before cooking it into a sauce. If it is bitter, do not consume it. Simple as that.

Important to note is that the cross pollination impacts will not take effect until you have eaten the squash grown from the cross pollinated plant. So, the second generation of squash.

Now, if you take the seed from the above OK cross pollinated squash to grow next years plant, that is where the risk for toxic squash will increase.

In my mind, even if you are buying your seed from a company though, there is no way to guarantee the seed you are purchasing has not been cross pollinated. Growers would have to manually pollinate and protect the flowers from any pollinators  and yes some do.

This leads me back to the best way to prevent toxic squash poisoning is just to test it and never eat a bitter squash.

Again, the risk is low. Getting in your car is far more dangerous than the squash in your garden but I think it is still very important to have the knowledge that it exists.

So keep growing squash, just do so now with Toxic Squash awareness.

Feel free to comment with anything you have learned on toxic squash, we would certainly love to see more research and findings on the subject.

We appreciate you joining us. Be kind, be nature friendly. Take care.

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