carpentry, farming, gardening, homesteading, low tunnel

How To Build a Low Tunnel and Save Your Sanity


Our homestead is located in upstate New York, where the winter can drag on.  By the time mid-March rolls around, we are getting the urge to start gardening.  Like most people, we start seeds under grow lights.  Seeing the seedlings emerge is wonderful, but it still does not allow us to get our hands in the ground.  A great way to get your hands dirty earlier, and extend your gardening season, is to build a low tunnel.  A low tunnel can give you several more weeks of growing in spring and fall.  We often construct a low tunnel when the snow is still on the ground and plant kale, lettuce, and carrots.  We also experiment with different seeds to see which will grow best in the tunnel, we often use left over seeds from last season.  This way if we lose the plants it is not too big of a big loss.  We have come up with a very inexpensive and easy way to build one, so if you are like us and can’t wait for spring, keep reading.


The first step is to choose a location in your garden and clear the snow off.  By the time March rolls around, the ground is often thawed under the snow.  We then construct a frame of 2″ x 4″ s approximately 4′ x 8′.  Then we secure the corners with screws.  Because these inexpensive tunnels only have a life span of a few seasons, we do not bother using expensive pressure treated lumber.

The next step is to drill holes in the corners to hold the 5/8″ rebar pegs.   We use a 5/8″ drill bit for this task being careful not to drill directly into the corner where our screws are located.  We drill down 3″ and then drive the pegs in.  The pegs are cut to 6″ in length.  We also drill holes along the long side of the frame 30″ apart for additional supports.

We then use 3/4″ plastic electrical conduit to make the arches to hold the plastic.  The length of these supports can vary depending on how high you want your tunnel to be.  They are easy to bend and slide over the rebar pegs.  At this point we can turn over the soil and plant our seeds.  This is where we finally get our hands dirty.  Putting your hands in the soil no matter how cold seems eases our winter blues.

The last step is to stretch the clear plastic over the structure and fasten it with staples along the edge.  We use a minimum of 4mil poly, but 6mil will definitely hold up better.

img_2416Our low tunnel is now complete.  To check on our seeds progress we simply flip it over backward, or pick it up and move it.  It does take a lot longer for seeds to germinate in it, but checking on them makes us happy.  One of the things we love about what we do is learning, and every failure is a learning experience.  On the homestead we sometimes do things just for fun, or sometimes to experiment.  So if the winter blues have you down, try a low tunnel, even if your seeds don’t grow, you still got to play in the dirt.


We made a short video covering construction,  Don’t mind the rooster crowing !!!

cooking, gardening, homesteading

Making Crushed Red Pepper, just like when life gives you lemons…


We have all heard the saying ” when life gives you lemons make lemonade “.  Well Last growing season life gave us peppers, lots of them.  We had so many peppers in fact that we couldn’t really keep up.  Every night we were cutting up bell and jalapeno peppers and freezing them.  We were also canning tomatoes.  Harvest time is always busy and inevitably we miss a few things.  This year we missed the Anaheim chili peppers we had planted in pots by the pool.  By the time we got to them, they were past their prime.  Life had given us wrinkly rubbery peppers, now we just needed to find a way to make them into “lemonade”.  Our first thought was to freeze them and put them into dishes where they would be cooked down.  Then our “lemonade” moment came, we could dry them just like you see in all of those pictures of the old country.  So we found a spot, used a needle and thread, and hung them to dry.  They became a beautiful piece of art hanging in our kitchen.


They looked so much like decoration that people would ask if they were fake.  After about 4 months, we felt they were dry enough for the next step.  We were going to make them into our own crushed red pepper.  We started by crushing them by hand, wearing gloves of course.  We had made the mistake of bare handed pepper handling in the past,  and let’s just say it didn’t just burn our hands.

Once the peppers were crushed, we decided that a quick run through the spice grinder was in order.  We wanted it to look like the real thing.


   We finished it off by putting the finished product in a small mason jar.


You can even see the flakes in our delicious soup .


We had made “lemonade”, and now we had a delicious new home grown and chemical free spice to use in our food.  So often we are discouraged in life,  it would have been easy to throw these peppers away.  Instead we took a chance on a them and developed a new skill.  When we ordered our seeds this year, we ordered peppers specifically to dry and crush.  We will be making this batch of “lemonade” for years to come.

ham hock, ham shank, ham soup, homesteading, soup recipe

Ham shank and bean homestead soup


Many nights on the homestead, our dinner comes entirely out of the garden and freezer.  This year, we were blessed to have added pigs to the homestead, and this has allowed us to eat a home grown meal more often.  Everyone enjoys bacon, ribs and pork chops,  but when you have a hog butchered there are many other cuts that you may not be as familiar with.  One of these cuts is the shank.  Shanks are traditionally smoked and contain meat and a lot of connective tissue, which makes them perfect for a homestead soup.  I will admit that our shanks had found their way to the bottom of the freezer, but after making this soup that will never happen again.


We started the soup in a large cast iron pot by sauteing onions and garlic in olive oil and butter until translucent.  We seasoned with black pepper.  We then added our chicken stock, which is made from our own birds, and water.


We brought this all to a boil then reduced to a simmer for one hour.  After an hour we added several different types of dried beans that we had harvested this past summer.  If you have ever shelled beans then you know we didn’t waste any of these.  We also added our canned  tomatoes, red pepper, and oregano.


We covered and simmered for one more hour.  After an hour we removed the hocks and removed the meat.  We returned the meat to the pot and discarded the bones.  We then simmered for 45 min or until the beans were tender.  The result was an amazing hearty soup that would warm you up even on the coldest day.  A cold Sunday is the perfect time to enjoy this soup, you can take your time and enjoy every spoon full.  Maybe even bake some crusty bread to warm up the house and enjoy with your creation.  When we looked into this bowl of soup we could see all of our hard work, not only cooking it but growing the ingredients. The shanks, the beans, and tomatoes, and even the tiny red pepper and oregano flakes.  This is truly a homestead soup, it not only warmed you up but put a smile on your face, and was a just reward for all the hard work.  There will never be any marching bands to congratulate you for your hard work, but there will be soup.


gardening, glass gem corn, homesteading, Uncategorized

Glass gem corn happiness and beauty


Every year when I look through the seed catalogs, I always come across a picture that grabs my attention.  A picture of a vegetable taken at peak ripeness and in perfect light.  Last year was no exception,  and it was Baker Creek’s catalog cover that drew me in.  It’s always the same. I look at the picture, turn to Tracy and say I’m gonna grow that.  So when the seed order for the year was placed glass gem was on the list.  Glass Gem corn is a beautiful native american flint corn that can be used for flour or popcorn, but it’s this corn’s amazing color that makes it prized. In our area, we plant corn on memorial day weekend, so it was a long wait to get our seeds in the ground.  We planted them away from our other corn to decrease the chance of cross pollination.  After 2 weeks, very few plants had emerged,  and I was discouraged.  I replanted over the old seeds and waited.  After two more weeks both sets of seeds began to grow.


Although the spacing was too close, I let all the plants that sprouted grow.  And grow they did.  After a short time, the plants were shoulder high, and then quickly taller than me.  Soon after, I saw the first silk emerge.



Now waiting has never been my strong suit, and as soon as the ears seemed big enough and some of the silk was dry,  I began checking on what was inside.  I was devastated, all of the ears were yellow.  I began to think that all of my beautiful corn had cross pollinated with my sweet corn.  We decided to wait until the ears dried on the stalks and then check again.  A few weeks passed, and when we opened them, we were overjoyed.  They were just as gorgeous as the pictures in the catalog.  I have never grown anything that had looked as good as the pictures in the catalog, but this may have been more beautiful.


Now it was time to decide what to do with it all.  First it needed to be dried, so we laid it out in the sun.


We made some bunches of three or four ears to decorate and give to family,  but we still had so many ears.  Finally we decided to put some out in our little farm stand.  Very soon after we put it out we had our first customer.  A young lady who was getting married next fall wanted some to plant next year to use as decorations at her wedding.  We also put the beautiful 8′ tall stalks out for sale.  We were now glass gem farmers.


We took the corn that was left after our sales, hung it to dry, and later we ground it into flour.  We saved the kernels from the most beautiful ears to share with friends, and to grow for ourselves the next year.  Our experience growing glass gem corn was a success.  It is hard to believe that growing a vegetable could be this rewarding!  So the next time you see that picture in the catalog that draws you in, take a chance.  You will always learn something new, and you may get lucky and find happiness on a cob.


Glass Gem corn seeds

One packet containing 100 seeds that we hand picked from our best ears. Free shipping to the lower 48 states. contact us if you need an international quote.


cooking, gardening, homemade, homesteading, Uncategorized

My New Found Relationship with Beets


As the winter begins to wear on,  I often think about warmer weather and the past summer.  Sometimes I scroll through our pictures on cold days, usually looking at pictures of our homestead, and I am always drawn to pictures of food.  Today I stumbled upon this picture and it drew my attention immediately.  It looked like comfort food, like something I’d love to eat on a cold day.  I remembered the story of how this meal came to be.  Sometimes a meal is an old favorite, and sometimes it is a conscious decision to try something new, but this meal was a little different.  One day I posted a picture on Instagram of some beautiful beets that we had grown.

I always boiled beets and loved them prepared that way.  But one of my IG friends suggested that I roast them.  So I decided to try some roasted beets.  Immediately I realized that those beautiful beets were going to be awfully lonely.  So I began searching for other root veggies that might want to join the party.  We have a big garden and it was late in the year so I had no problem finding guests.  We had potatoes of all colors and beautiful ox-heart carrots. After a little more searching We found some turnips and some very sticky, sweet garlic.

We now had the makings of a wonderful dish.  We peeled all of the veggies with the exception of the potatoes.  Next we cubed all the veggies so the were roughly the same size to make them cook evenly.  We took all of the veggies and tossed them in bowl with olive oil and a little salt and pepper to coat them.  Another Instagram friend suggested we toss the beets separate so their color didn’t bleed into the rest of the veggies.  We then placed them in a glass baking pan and added some rosemary we grew.


We placed them in a 350 degree oven and baked until the veggies were tender.  I was so pleasantly surprised by the flavor of the roasted beets that I may never eat them boiled again.  Another big surprise was the roasted carrots, which were tender and sweeter than boiled carrots.  The whole dish had undertones of roasted garlic and rosemary.  We served it as a side dish, but it could have easily been a main course.  If there had been any leftovers, I am sure they would been a great replacement for hash browns.  A meal that had started as a picture of a beet ended as a roasted medley of deliciousness.  It’s always good to have friends, no matter where you find them.