How We Built Our Greenhouse

Starting tomatoes in the greenhouse from sow true seed

The Deer Hunter built our greenhouse back in 2011 and we're still loving it. It's so handy to have it in our backyard. Prior to having our own greenhouse I used one down the road a ways. It was nice to have somewhere to start my seedlings, but looking back it was a good thing when I wasn't able to use that one anymore and we had to bite the bullet and build our own. 

How to build a greenhouse
We decided a greenhouse 20 feet long would be plenty big enough for what we needed. First The Deer Hunter went looking through the scrap wood pile and found enough lumber to make the base/sides.

Building a greenhouse with pvc pipe
He had already bought 13 pieces of 3/4 X 20 foot pvc pipe, four- 4 X 4 posts, seven sheets 1/2 inch osb, and a roll of six mil clear plastic (we bought the wrong plastic-read the rest of the post to see why). 

He attached 11 of the pieces to the 2 sides. He added 2 pieces of pvc down the length of the piece that would make the hoop to add additional support.

How to build a cheap greenhouse
Next we raised it up. It took all four of us to get it into position, then we held it while The Deer Hunter made sure it was square and attached it to the ground with re-bar.

Easy to build greenhouse
He then framed in the ends securing them to the ground with 4 X 4 posts. He put a door in one end and a framed opening for an exhaust fan in the other. When he got to this point he decided to bring each end in two feet to make an over hang on each end which would help protect the wood framing.

Dyi greenhouse
After that-it was time for the plastic. We draped it over the hoops leaving about two feet extra on each side. He attached the plastic on each end with metal roofing screws-screwing it directly to the pvc.

With the help of the girls-and Ruby Sue-we buried the plastic on each side. After he built and installed the door, we had a greenhouse of our very own for a little less than two days work and 250 bucks.

In the following year we had a couple of hail storms that damaged the greenhouse plastic and a strong wind finished the plastic off. Turns out we didn't buy the right kind of plastic in the first place. 


Build a greenhouse at home

The Deer Hunter said we should look at having to recover the greenhouse as a learning experience and as a chance to change things we wished we'd done differently the first go around.

Pvc greenhouse
The second go around we bought plastic specifically made for greenhouses. Once the hail damaged the first type of plastic we used it began to give way at all the pressure points. After studying on the issue for a while The Deer Hunter came up with the idea of using foam pipe insulation to cover the pipe/wood areas that came in direct contact with the plastic. The pipe insulation will also help protect our spring seedlings as it seals off some of the air gaps too.

We've not had any other hiccups with our greenhouse and after 6 years of use I'm still loving it!


p.s. Yesterday I took Granny over to Pap's grave so we could put fresh flowers on it. It wasn't even raining at our house, but by the time we drove the short distance it was coming a down pour at the graveyard. We set in the car until it quit and as I was helping Granny walk to the grave Chitter said "Look-a rainbow!" The rainbow looked like it was right over Pap and Granny's house. I'd like to send a big THANK YOU out to each of you for letting me share Pap's death story and for sharing your comfort and wisdom with me. 

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Clearing New Ground in Choestoe

Today's guest post was written by Ethelene Dyer Jones.

Bean vines reaching to hold hands

I just now accessed Charles Fletcher's delightful "New Ground," and it brought back memories of my Daddy, Jewel Marion Dyer, of Choestoe, GA, Union County, clearing "new grounds" in our 200 acres of land when I was a child. I must have been about 6 (the same year I went with Daddy as he used the "Divining Stick" to find the place to dig for the spring when our well went dry.) Daddy wanted an acre or more patch to plant beans "for market." The bean patch was to be still another of the several "money crops" we raised on our Choestoe farm. The large fields along the Nottely River were mainly planted in our main crop, corn, and in "Blue-Ribbon Cane" for making sorghum syrup which my Daddy made at his syrup mill in the fall for all the farmers in a large radius from us who brought their cane for him to make into sorghum syrup "on the shares."

But back to the bean patch: Daddy and some neighbors (who always helped each other in such endeavors) cut trees off the measured-off acre of land. Some of the trees were big enough to snake to the sawmill and have sawed into timber. The tree-cutting and clearing of the land happened in the late fall/early winter after all the crops were safely in. It would take awhile to clear the land. First cutting the trees. Then, small as I was, I had the job of "piling the brush" on top of stumps. This would be set afire to get rid of the brush, but also to "burn down" the stumps of trees, and eventually get them removed--one of the hardest jobs of clearing the new ground. It seems like it took two or more years, ridding the trees, first; then the brush; then the stumps and roots.

Finally, finally, Daddy thought the acre was in good enough shape to "turn" (with the turning plow, both horses hooked up to it). He still discovered roots aplenty, and more digging and grubbing had to be done. But finally, he was "satisfied" (a good mountain word he used to approve of an operation like this big "land-clearing") and the ground was read to "lay off" in rows, scatter the fertilizer in rows and "stir it into the ground" and plant the bean seeds--seeds that would yield green beans to be picked, measured into bushel hampers, then put into feed sack bags and hauled to market, all the way to Gainesville "across Neal Gap" on the new highway that came in sight of our farm even before I was born (road finished in 1925).

I liked everything about our "new ground" except one thing. Well, you expected me to say "the hard work," didn't you? Not the hard work, because we were "brought up" to work; and if we needed a reminder, we were quoted scripture to the effect "Whatever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might" (Ecclestiastes 9:10). But some days, my mother would send me to the "bean patch" to pick a "mess" of beans so she could cook them for our family and whoever the work hands were my father had doing farm jobs. I took my pail and obediently walked through the woods to the wonderful, well-producing bean patch. But lo, I couldn't help but be scared the whole time I was there picking beans, and I hurried to fill the pail and get safely back home to my house.

Was I afraid of wild animals that might spring forth from the woods surrounding the bean patch? No! Daddy had thoughtfully put a good fence around the acre patch to try to keep wild animals out (although I think some could scale the fence with relative ease).

The fear came to the young child (I was maybe 7 or 8 years old by this time) because, just northeast of the bean patch, lay a tract of land that somehow I had a deep-seated fear about. You see, Old Choestoe Cemetery where many of my ancestors were buried (early settlers to Choestoe even before the Cherokees were removed on the "Trial of Tears") had their resting places in that cemetery. Looking through the trees and up to Old Choestoe Cemetery, I could see my Grandmother Georgianne Hunter Collins's white tombstone. I could also see several others' stones, whose names I will not mention here.  My Grandmother had died before I was born, and my mother gave me the name Georgianne Ethelene after my Grandmother, and her sister, Ethel.  Somehow, in my child's over-active imagination, I thought Grandmother might want to come forth from the grave and get acquainted with me, who worked so hard within sight of her burying place, to pick a mess of beans for "dinner" (what we called our noon meal on the farm in Choestoe).

Well, I really did want to meet my Grandmother Georgianne, for I had been told beautiful tales about what a sweet, hard-working woman she was, stately and a good wife, mother and neighbor to all. But somehow, I didn't think I wanted to meet her in that beanpatch, with me the only one to see.  And after all, she had already been dead since October 3, 1924, and I was picking beans in the summer of 1938. Fourteen years had been a long-time gone for a dear grandmother.

Such is the imagination of an 8-year old child. I did remain to fill my bucket, left the bean patch, remembering to latch the gate behind me, and hurried through the woods trail to my house where I helped my mother string the beans and get them ready to cook for our family's noon meal.

The New Ground was a place that yielded well through many years, as long as my father was able to cultivate the "cleared acre." He was still growing beans on that acre and taking them to market the year before his stroke that debilitated him. My mother, Azie Collins Dyer, died February 14, 1945 at age 49. My father died September 4, 1974 at age 84. I grew up happy on our farm in Choestoe, and am grateful for my Appalachian heritage.

Ethelene Dyer Jones - March 2017


 I hope you enjoyed Ethelene's memories of clearing new ground as much as I did!


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How Does My Garden Grow?

Spring gardening in brasstown

I was feeling so behind in all our gardening endeavors and now I'm wondering what I was so worried about-such is the way of gardening. I'm sure I'll feel behind again come time to plant the less hardy plants of summer.

We have Black Seeded Simpson Lettuce from Sow True Seed Sparkler Radishes from Sow True Seed, and onion buttons from walmart up and growing. 

We've also planted a bed of Detroit Dark Red Beets from Sow True Seed, but they're not showing their little faces yet-beets seem to take forever to germinate.

Starting tomatoes in the greenhouse from sow true seed 2

In the greenhouse we have four varieties of tomatoes started: Black Cherry, Mountain Princess, and Cherokee Purple from  Sow True Seed and Cream and Sausage from my own seeds. We also have two Sow True Seed Pepper varieties started: Marconi Red and Sweet Banana

Sow True Seed Lettuce

Over the weekend I planted three additional type of lettuces in an effort to help out  Sow True Seed. I'm going to report how the varieties did in my neck of the woods as will other lettuce testers. The collected information will help Sow True Seed know more about the lettuce and where it grows best. 

I've only grown leaf lettuce so I'm excited to see how the Buttercrunch and Parris Island Romaine does for me. I'm also interested in seeing if Jericho holds up and continues to produce once hot weather arrives. 

Don't think I've left you Reporters @ Large out of the fun.  Sow True Seed has decided to let us do our Annual Blind Pig and The Acorn Reporting project for the fall garden. I'll let you know when I receive more details about the project. 


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Planting by the Signs Calendar - April 2017 and a Happy Birthday Wish

Planting by the Signs Calendar April 2017

I'm not feeling near as behind in my gardening as I was a few weeks back. We finally got our tomatoes started and we've planted a few spring veggies in the garden. I'm planting several different varieties of lettuce for Sow True Seed this year and I hope to get them planted in the next few days. 

If you plan to purchase seeds from Sow True Seed I hope you'll go through me to purchase them-just click on this link- Sow True Seed and start shopping.

I'll tell you more about my gardening endeavors one day next week, but today I have a special birthday wish to send out to a long time Blind Pig reader, Charles Fletcher.

Charles is 95 years young today and I hope he has the best birthday ever! 


p.s. Over the years Charles has shared many guest posts with us-follow the links below to read a few of them.

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Small Scale Gardening

Small scale gardening

The Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English offers the following definition for patch farming:

1972 Graham County 50 With the first stages of early clearing, the farmer did "patch" farming near the cabin. Many farmers today still speak of a "patch" of corn or other crops. The farmer gradually and systematically extended the patches into wider fields by each year extending his farming into a new area known as a "new ground."

Back in the day when I first started gardening I read all sorts of books and magazines on the subject. I was fascinated by the articles which showed how much food could be produced in small raised beds. Typically the gardens profiled were in urban settings where there is less square footage to go around for gardening purposes. 

In those days, we had even less flat land around our house than we do now so I thought my narrow little bank tops would be perfect for raised beds. I remember telling Pap about what I had been reading and he got this smile on his face. I said "What?" He said "Why Tip people around here have been growing gardens like that since I was a boy, only nobody called them raised beds. But every wife would have her a little garden patch right close to the house where it'd be handy for her to tend it and for them to eat from it too." 

Then Pap showed me, you don't have to break the bank to build those little garden patches aka raised beds.

We found some 2-to 3 foot length tree branches The Deer Hunter had cut and thrown in the woods and used them for the sides. Pap showed me how to fill the bottom portion of the new patch with leaves and then dig a few buckets full of dark loamy soil from the edge of the woods to put on top. 

In the years since Pap first showed me how to form little garden patches I've made them all over the yard-one here and one there gradually increasing their size and building up the soil all at the same time.

I've used all sorts of boards, logs, branches, and rocks to form the sides. Basically I used anything I could find that was handy. And I've discovered: if you're able to fill the patch with 12 inches of good lose dark rich soil like the gardening books tell you to-GREAT. But if you're like me and you're really doing good to end up with 3 or 4 inches of so so soil it still works better than trying to grow vegetables on top of hard packed dirt. And if you're short on gardening space those little patches here and there and can boost your vegetable production in an amazing way.

Remember if you plan to purchase seeds from Sow True Seed please go through me to purchase them-just click on this link- Sow True Seed and start getting those seeds!


p.s. The Pressley Girls will be playing Saturday March 25 at 6:00 p.m. at the Martins Creek Community Center.

 *Source Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English and Pap.

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Planting by the Signs Calendar - March 2017

March 2017 Planting Calendar

Who can believe the crazy weather we've been having! In the 70s one day and the next day a hard frost with a temp of a chilly 23 degrees. My plum tree was in full bloom before the hard frost on Sunday morning...not much left of the blooms now just some mushy brown things. 

Seems like everywhere I go I hear folks saying we're going to pay for the warmest February ever with a cold and snowy March. I even heard one person mention the blizzard word for March's forecast. I guess only time will tell what the weather will actually bring us. 

My Sow True Seed Kale from last fall is still hanging on and I have a few onions that overwintered that are nice and pretty. I want to plant some radishes and lettuce this month and of course the tomato seedlings still need to be started as well. 

My favorite sign to plant under is Cancer, but if it doesn't work out to where I can plant under Cancer, I aim for Scorpio, Pisces, or Taurus.  

  • Taurus: good for all root crops and above ground crops

  • Cancer: best for planting above ground and root crops

  • Scorpio: best for flowers and above ground crops

  • Pisces: Good for planting and transplanting above ground crops, trees and shrubbery

Remember if you plan to purchase seeds from Sow True Seed please go through me to purchase them-just click on this link- Sow True Seed and start getting those seeds!


p.s. Tomorrow - Thursday March 2, 2017 6:30 p.m. Don Casada will be presenting a history of the Bryson City Cemetery and stories of some of those who are buried there. Many of these people as well as the cemetery itself have played a significant role in the history and development of WNC. Info about the preservation and maintenance of the cemetery by Friends of the Bryson City Cemetery will also be included—Swain County Business Education Center 45 East Ridge Drive, Bryson City 28713 Conversation and Refreshments Following. All are welcome—No admission charge

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Sow True Seed Sponsors Blind Pig and The Acorn's 2017 Garden In A Even Bigger Way!

Sow True Seed Sponsors the Blind Pig and the Acorn Garden

Sow True Seed has once again signed on to sponsor the Blind Pig and The Acorn garden as well as the Blind Pig & The Acorn Reporters @ Large planting project for the growing season of 2017.

This year Sow True Seed has added a new element for their sponsorship-something that will directly help me. 

I have become an affiliate of Sow True Seed. What does that mean? That means that if you go through me to get your Sow True Seeds I get 5% of the money you spend. The money I earn will go to pay for the Blind Pig and The Acorn website. I know many of you have purchased your seeds from Sow True Seed in the past, when you purchase them in the future please go through my link. Then it will be a win-win for all of us. Sow True Seed can do the important work of ensuring open-pollinated and heirloom seeds continue to exist, I get a small bit of financial help to continue my endeavor of celebrating and preserving Appalachia, and you get to grow some great plants and harvest some of the tastiest veggies and fruits ever!

Now let me tell you a little bit about this amazing company. 

Sow True Seed is located in Asheville NC, they have a great website for those of you who live to far away to visit, and their seeds can also be found in racks all over the place. (go to this page to see the rack locations)

The company has a large selection of heirloom seeds and they strive to find varieties that do well in the Southern Appalachian Mountains.

With an eye on the future, Sow True Seed has taken a stand to help ensure the purity of open-pollinated and heirloom seeds so future generations can continue to grow their favorite veggies, save their seed from year to year, and continue the circle of growing that our ancestors handed down to us.

Sow True Seed has an impressive selection of vegetable, flower, herb, and cover crop seeds.

  • They offer open-pollinated, non hybrid, and untreated seed-meaning you can save your seed from year to year with each new plant's yield staying true to the original yield.
  • Much of their seed production is USDA Certified Organic-and they're striving to increase their organic varieties each year.
  • Heirloom seeds-which are always open pollinated-make up most of Sow True Seed's inventory.

Sow True Seed also offers programs such as:

In addition you can get seed garlic, sweet potato slips, seed potatoes, garden collections, hand tools, tee shirts, gift certificates, and a variety of how to/gardening books from Sow True Seed.

Jump over to their website and while you're there sign up for Sow True Seed's great newsletter which is always a pleasure to read with helpful tips and gardening info. The newsletter is FREE. Be sure to check out the Sow True Seed Blog too!

Be on the look out for more information about the Blind Pig & the Acorn Reporters @ Large Planting Project in the coming days-this year's trial hasn't been decided yet, but I know it will be something great. Oh and remember if you plan to purchase seeds from Sow True Seed please go through me to purchase them-just click on any link in this post that reads Sow True Seed and start getting those seeds!


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Memories and Food

Memories connected to food

Each of us have memories that are connected to food. Typically those remembrances are directly related to our childhood, you know the things we ate around the family table like the chocolate gravy I told you about earlier this week.

A few years ago I shared my thoughts about memories which are connected to food you put up yourself. Here's a portion of that old post:

"Recently I watched the rain come down in sheets while I ate apples I dried back in the fall. As I munched my tasty apples, I realized there's another reason why things we put up are good. 

On a yucky dreary day my dried apples gave me sunshine; a slice of crystal clear Georgia sky; and the sounds of 4-wheelers and giggling girls. In other words my apples gave me a swirl of good memories from the day I dried them.

I've long realized we have memories and emotions tied to certain foods-like how we can taste a certain food and instantly be taken back to childhood. But I've never before thought of food in connection to the actual day it was made.

I'm positive the next jar of tomatoes I open I'll smell the hot summer sun shining on the green leaves and the next time I cook a jar of greenbeans for supper I'll think of the early summer days when we planted them together in Pap's big garden with friendly banter back and forth among us all."

I've kept pondering on the idea of food I put up being tied to the memory of the day I put it up.

I couldn't seem to care about none of my growing things after Pap died. But last fall as The Deer Hunter and I harvested the largest crop of apples we've ever grown I felt hopeful. Hopeful that all those apples would make some delicious applesauce for us, hopeful that I would dry apples from them for snacks and for a Christmas apple stack cake, hopeful because I knew Pap would be so proud of those apples.

So in some weird, maybe even silly way my canned applesauce became wrapped up in my grieving process for Pap. Now each jar I open reminds me of the hope and sunshine that came after the greatest rain of my life. 


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My Fall Garden

Calendula flowers growing in western nc

Chatter's Calendula flowers are still blooming strong. Hard to believe anything is growing let alone blooming in this terrible dry weather we've been having. The cows walking across the pasture down the road are sending up dust clouds. With forest fires going all around we desperately need rain. 

Sow true seed turnips

My Sow True Seed Turnips are doing really good-again I'm surprised how good in spite of the drought. 

Sow true seed kale

The first kale I planted never showed one little green leaf. Since the turnips were doing so well in the backyard I re-planted my kale back there in a raised bed. The plants aren't exactly thriving, but at least they did come up. I've been trying to water the kale at least once a week. I think a cold spell and some rain would help it really take off. 

Heirloom plants chicago press

Several months ago, the kind folks at Chicago Review Press sent me the fascinating book above. Here's a short quote from their website about it:

Heirloom Plants includes information on almost 500 exciting cultivars to be grown and harvested, along with detailed profiles and cultivation tips for each plant. In addition to edibles, the book also has chapters on antique herbs and flowers, from Cup and Saucer vines to Sweet William carnations to Empress of India nasturtiums. Trowel and book in hand, let your motto be, "Growing the past, saving the future."

I've had so much fun reading through the book, the only downside to it-I want to grow every plant in it! The book is a great read for anyone interested in growing heirloom plants and in preserving those precious plants for future generations.

Chicago Review Press generously donated a copy of the book for a Blind Pig Reader too. Leave a comment on this post to be entered in the giveaway for the book. Giveaway ends on Saturday November 12, 2016.


p.s. Remember Guitar Man? For those of you who don't he is my oldest nephew. He shows up in most of our oldest music videos. He's making a movie! Actually he and a group of friends are trying their best to make a movie-go here for all the details. 

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Harvesting Together in Appalachia

Harvesting social get togethers in appalachia

Admiring your harvest is one of the greatest satisfactions of gardening-you can see some of Granny's in the photo above.

Several harvesting chores have traditionally taken on a social aspect in the history of Appalachia. 

  • berry canning: a community work activity held to preserve fruit for the winter-usually followed by dancing, eating, and general merry making.
  • bean shelling: a work session to shell beans such as October beans.
  • bean stringing: a community or family work session to prepare beans for canning or drying.
  • berry stemming: a family or community work session where stems were removed from berries before they were preserved-especially gooseberries and huckleberries.
  • cane stripping: a social work session to strip leaves and tops from sorghum cane before the canes were pressed. (Pap said sorghum making time was always something he looked forward to. The men (and boys) usually stayed the night to keep an eye on things. Pap said there was good food to eat, lots of storytelling, and even a few practical jokes.)
  • corn gathering: an organized work session used to gather corn from the field. School was often let out so that the children could help.
  • corn husking/corn shucking: a social activity held to shuck the corn. Typically music, dancing, and merry making was enjoyed after the corn was finished. 

In today's world there isn't usually community wide socializing during harvesting chores; however, there can still be a social component to harvesting-even if it only involves your immediate family.

Chatter and Chitter love stringing beans with their Granny and their cousin. They say breaking beans at Granny's and being silly while doing it are some of their favorite memories.

The Blind Pig family spent many evenings this summer breaking beans together. One evening we even had company help us-the cutest little red headed boy you ever saw.

Being together while harvesting and preserving-whether it be breaking beans, canning tomatoes, or even picking blackberries- allows for much talking, much laughing, and fosters the making of many memories.



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