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How to Buy Tame, Hand-Fed Easter Egger Hens from Our Daughter

This summer our daughter Rain decided to raise the tamest Easter Egger hens and sell them once they were close to laying age. She is selling them for the excellent price of $20.00 each. They are now large and feathered enough to be housed in outdoor coops but young enough they haven’t started laying yet. They will start laying sometime between fall and spring (most likely in the spring when the days start to lengthen… most chickens don’t lay well in the winter, anyway). They are nearly full grown but will get a little larger (so you will know for sure you aren’t buying 8 year old adults that are past their laying age).

Scroll down for more info about Rain’s lovely chickens, or just click on these thumbnails to be taken to Square Market for purchasing:

Brown and Orange Easter Egger Chickens, $20.00, CLICK ON PHOTO TO PURCHASE

White Easter Egger Chickens, $20.00, CLICK ON PHOTO TO PURCHASE

Mostly Orange Easter Egger Chickens $20.00, CLICK ON PHOTO TO PURCHASE

Rain acquired these chicks at the day-old stage (sexed as all females, though we did wait until they were old enough to identify any accidental roosters and discovered one male that we already found a home for). Once they outgrew the chicks-in-a-baby-pool stage we moved them to a coop & outdoor pen on a friend’s farm in Pelzer, SC. They have never been overcrowded and are incredibly cheerful, healthy birds. They are friendly enough to jump into laps if they think they’ll get a treat. Some of them will perch on your arm or shoulder and all of them will eat out of your hand. Even if you aren’t interested in pet hens, it is very useful to have tame chickens when you have need to catch them for wing clipping, relocating, medication, etc. Tame chickens also have fewer and less violent arguments when establishing their “pecking order.”

Photo Caption: Rain holding one of the Easter Eggers we kept. The rest were transferred to our friend’s private farm so they wouldn’t be crowded.

They are clever foragers for free range birds, though you may need to clip their wings if you want them to stay in a low-fenced pen.

If you are new to chicken keeping it is very easy to get started and they take about as much time and effort as a pet cat. Here’s a great link on getting started with chickens. This website has the best forums on the subject, too:

Backyard “How to Get Started Keeping Chickens”

The most important thing is to build or buy a predator-proof coop and to make sure you have enough room per bird — chicken health is almost entirely related to them not being crowded or subject to predation. The only reason we ever hear of for people failing at keeping chickens is they don’t make sure their coops are raccoon & dog proof. This is an excellent link detailing how to keep your chickens safe from predators; I particularly second the advice on using 1/4th inch hardware cloth and burying it alongside the run. Our coop has a temporary run so if the chickens get up in the morning earlier than us, they can forage a bit before we let them out to free range. I am excited to learn about this electronic poultry door, too – it would be very convenient. Another great chicken product is the Avian Aqua Miser waterer… our chickens use them with ease and we never deal with poopy water or spillage. However, for the most part you need a good coop, chicken food, and a source of water.

Photo Caption: Nathaniel hanging out with the chicks when they were about 4 weeks old. They are tame enough to act like a pet parrot.

Again, Rain is selling them for $20.00 each and they come in a wide range of colors even though they are the same breed. We have the most of brown & orange colored birds but there are some other options. Each hen has its own, unique pattern. CLICK HERE to purchase your birds. Once you have paid we will use the contact info you provide to set up a meeting place. You can come to the farm to pick them out yourself or have us pick them and deliver them to you — if you live far away you will need to do the bulk of the driving.

CLICK HERE to be taken to our Square Market store to purchase chickens from Rain. Scroll down until you see the 3 types of chickens available. They are first come, first served. Payment is required to reserve your birds.

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How to Build a Permaculture Garden Class, Part 1 & 2

This Saturday Eliza is going to be showing a small group of people how to install a permaculture garden by actually doing it — the best way to learn! If you prefer to learn hands-on, this class is going to cover a myriad of permaculture techniques and design elements. Even better is that in the process, we’ll be putting in a community garden that will benefit Greenville’s West End Village surrounding its location at The Wheel on Pendleton Street. Space is limited and tickets have been selling rapidly this week. The class is split into 2 parts but is best taken together as a full day class.

Come break ground on a fantastic new public garden and learn how to design your own in the process!

Photo Caption: An A-frame is a helpful tool for finding contour in permaculture designs.

Other classes this month:

FYI, we haven’t forgotten the handouts from the SC Organic Growing Conference — shockingly enough, things get hectic for gardeners when spring hits. It’s coming soon and we’ll let you know when it goes up!

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SC Organic Growing Conference Placeholder

I taught two classes at last Saturday’s SC Organic Growing Conference — one on farmscaping and the other on southern passalong plants for permaculturists. I promised everyone to put the handouts online, which is still on my todo list. Being me, I got sidetracked reading some new studies and expanding my farmscaping spreadsheet so the official blog post with the handout will likely go up next week. In the meantime, here’s some links to relevant blog posts I’ve written with similar information:

I promise the other info, including handouts for Nathaniel’s 2 classes, will be up soon and I’ll send an email newsletter to let everyone know.

Here’s a pic of the Appalachian Feet Mountain Arts booth from the conference. We were handing out flyers for our classes.


Photo Caption: We’re especially pleased with the new poster and Rayna’s chalk marker board (she’s planning to use it for selling mushrooms).

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How to Attend Hands-On Classes in Gardens, Kitchens, Forests, and Even a Late 1800’s Cabin

It’s here. The garden classes are in gardens, the cooking classes are in kitchens, the nature study is in forests, the raspberries taste like raspberries, and the snozzberries taste like snozzberries!

Photo Caption: My daughter and I inside the Hagood Mill cabin where I’ll be teaching sometimes.

I worked for weeks on the lesson plans for these hands-on classes, workshops, and tours and am so excited to finally roll them out. Click here for my entire 2015 schedule.

Continue reading How to Attend Hands-On Classes in Gardens, Kitchens, Forests, and Even a Late 1800’s Cabin

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Update: Public Permaculture Demo Garden Progress

When I founded the SC Upstate Permaculture Society I had no idea we’d be this popular, but we’re up to 644 members with multiple people joining each week. If you live in upstate South Carolina (or nearby) we welcome you to join us. Last October we broke ground on a huge new garden that is already stacking functions by being outreach to the community, an educational opportunity for school children, a seed & plant bank for SCUPS members, a wildlife corridor (especially for the endangered Monarch butterfly), a form of erosion control, a place for SCUPS members to practice permaculture, and a source of fresh food.

We’re calling it “Your Garden.”

Photo Caption: “What are you doing? Permaculture?” This is the eastern phoebe that follows me around in my home garden – which happens to be next door to the public demo garden. It didn’t take him (or her?) long to find me working in a new location. I really am as close to him as the photo appears.

It’s also going to be a bird sanctuary as we add native berry shrubs, insect habitat, bird houses, and bird feeders. I’ve recently written about some of our birding plans in this SCUPS blog post.

So far we’ve only had four member work days and there’s already a significant, “wow!” factor to the before and after photos, which you get to see after the jump:

Continue reading Update: Public Permaculture Demo Garden Progress

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News: Eliza on TV, Upcoming Events, and Our Favorite “How To” Articles

Eliza was on TV Wednesday doing a foraging recipe demonstration (involving a failed attempt to use a hammer) and talking about a couple things happening this weekend with Grow Journey and the Swamp Rabbit Cafe & Grocery’s Holiday Flea Market on Saturday from 11am – 3pm.  If you’d like to see Eliza’s segment during Wednesday’s Studio 62 on the CW channel, here’s the video (may not load immediately):

The holiday flea is free to attend and there will be local vendors from all over the upstate. Eliza and Nathaniel will be at the Grow Journey booth selling variety seed packets and gift subscriptions from their fantastic organic & heirloom seed-of-the-month club, complete with expert assistance to make sure your thumb turns green.


Photo Caption: ‘Spirit of Freedom’ is a David Austin rose that does well grown organically. It has great form, scent, and disease resistance.

As we say goodbye to 2014, we decided to compile a collection of our favorite “How To” articles to date. These include fantastic plants, innovative growing techniques, and efficient gardening hacks that make a garden shine. We hope they inspire your winter garden daydreams:



Insects & Diseases:

Nature & Foraging:



We will also be selling Eliza’s urban homesteading classes. We have exciting news regarding these classes that you can expect to see more details about in January — make sure you’re on our newsletter so you don’t miss out:

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How to Have Perennial Food Plants & No Disease for Your 2015 Garden

Okay, maybe not NO disease, but insignificant diseases and pests sounds good, right? Plus, perennial fruits and veggies mean less work for more harvest. Eliza loves teaching the two class topics available this week at the Swamp Rabbit Cafe & Grocery. Click here to sign up for class or click here to see the full 2014-2015 class schedule.

Photo Caption: Passionfruit (Passiflora incarnata) are one of the perennial food plants that can be grown in this area — and they also happen to be native! Come Tuesday to learn more than 30 types of garden foods that only need to be planted once. We didn’t see this one growing on the ground and accidentally POPPED it — so we gave it some rue seed pods for eyes and prepped it for a closeup.


  • November 4th, 2014 Tuesday

    • Perennial Fruits & Vegetables for the Southeast 6:15pm – Ever wish your garden would just come up on its own in the spring? Don’t worry, asparagus isn’t the only delicious perennial vegetable out there. This class will cover dozens of plant-only-once greens, roots, shoots, and fruiting vegetables that require little to no maintenance in our climate. Learn how to plant the closest thing to a zero work food garden!

  • – November 6th, 2014 Thursday

    • Understanding Plant Diseases & Preventing them in Next Year’s Garden 6:15pm – Controlling the plant diseases for next year’s garden often hinges on what you do in the fall and winter. Come learn the most common plant diseases in the southeast, how to identify them, and how to prevent them. We’ll mostly cover organic preventative measures that keep you from dealing with diseases in the first place!

Click here to sign up for class or click here to see the full 2014-2015 class schedule.

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How to Attend Our Upcoming Garden Open House (& a Virtual Tour)

Our garden open house (rain or shine) is THIS coming Saturday!

Drop-in June 14th, 9:00am – 5:00pm
Recommended donation of $2-$5
440 Summit Drive, Greenville, SC

You may also want to catch Eliza’s TEDx presentation at Zen on Tuesday, June 17th at 5:30pm. Additionally, Eliza wrote the feature article (on pawpaws) in the latest Edible Upcountry magazine, available for free at area locations like the Swamp Rabbit Cafe & Grocery, The Carolina Honeybee Company, or The Community Tap.

Our plans for the garden open house are not as far along as we expected at this point — partly due to Eliza’s busy speaking and landscape consulting schedule this past spring, but mainly due to another pregnancy and recurrent miscarriage. Last Monday we went to a first trimester appointment and Eliza began miscarrying during the ultrasound. We decided to mention it because miscarriages are so common and so rarely talked about (1 in 4 pregnancies ends in miscarriage). It would be nice if society was a little better informed. We’re doing better this time around but appreciate all the optimistic sympathy we’ve received.

Here’s what we know for sure will be available to view at the garden open house (June 14th, 9:00am-5:00pm):

  • A Q&A tent where Eliza & Nathaniel will answer your questions (& likely refreshment stand)
  • Lawn-free edible landscaping, especially in the front yard, featuring guilds, microclimates, and hundreds of plant species
  • Unusual perennial food crops for the southeast
  • Lots of hugelkultur examples
  • Keyhole bed design
  • Sheet mulching/deep mulching & soil ecology
  • Water catchment swales in pathways
  • Edible mushroom farming
  • Pallet gardens
  • Farmscaping (Thorough organic pest control through attracting a complete ecosystem)
  • Chickens, chicken coop, & run (which contains a hawk deterring “fedge” — aka food hedge)
  • Black soldier fly waste composting and chicken feed
  • Worm bin composting
  • Cold composting
  • Live fermentation and canning displays
  • Seed saving display
  • Mildly grouchy honeybees that occasionally send a lone guard to chase us around — we’ll let you view the apiary from a distance (or you can just stay in the front yard if you feel concerned). We’ll be requeening our hives with more peaceful stock soon.
  • The beginnings of our first pond (under construction)
  • The beginnings of our duck run (under construction, no ducks yet)
  • Part of an herb spiral (we may finish it before this weekend)
  • Our personal micro-nursery
  • A 5th generation (for our family) passalong pomegranate tree in full bloom
  • Detailed plans about our eventual goals for the property and the chance to see it in progress

We may add a little bit more to the list before Saturday if health and time permit. Here’s a sneak peak at the front yard garden, which is the only thing that is nearly finished:

Photo Caption: Eliza planned to have a neighbor-friendly sitting area near the sidewalk for years… it’s nearly finished! The benches are a popular sitting area for parents picking up kids from next door Summit Elementary.

We are so happy with our front hugelkultur beds! Eliza has had to water a lot due to adding many new seeds and plants (you have to keep them watered until their roots reach deep down into the composting wood reservoir). However, the plants we established last year are utterly drought-proof. They’re also expressing their approval of hugeling by growing absurdly large — one bed has a Phlox paniculata ‘David’ that is already 6′ tall and does not appear to be stopping any time soon.

Photo Caption: It is difficult to photograph the shapes of the beds, but it is a permaculture keyhole pattern that has been completely hugelkultured underneath.

You may remember the above garden view from this process photo post when we were adding the hugels last year. Here is what it looks like a year later — still not completely mature but everything is filling in nicely.

Photo Caption: The flowers of these tuberous begonias and small violas are edible… and so is the fern! Eliza has been trying to grow ostrich ferns for their fiddleheads ever since she bought the house. Hugelkultur saves the day, again — they’re taking over!

We knew hugelkultur was reputed to be nature’s irrigation system, but we couldn’t believe how much easier it made growing finicky plants like ostrich ferns, rhubarb, and gooseberries.

Photo Caption: Pink flowered strawberries have edible petals and delicious juicy red fruit.

We like to choose edible species that are also ornamental.

Photo Caption: Tradescantia ‘Sweet Kate’ has all the edibility and bumblebee attractiveness of a spiderwort with head-turning chartreuse foliage and cobalt flowers.

Ever consider eating our native spiderworts? Here’s how.

Photo Caption: Passerby asked if this tall red plant was poke sallet, but it is a bolting ruby-stemmed Swiss chard. In the foreground is the ‘Delfino’ cilantro we save seeds from every year.

The overwhelming majority of neighbors who stop to chat about our garden are very complimentary. A few days after these photos were taken we did have one woman inform us that we have a lot of weeds… guess the cottage garden look isn’t for everyone! Perhaps it was a misunderstanding since we grow so many species she may not recognize. Eliza wanted to ask which plants she thought were weeds but the lady crossed to the other side of the street on her way back past our house.

Usually we get questions about specific plants and people wanting to know how to do similar gardens in their own yard. Eliza was gratified a few days ago when she overheard a Spanish-speaking man point to the edible opuntia cactus near the road and excitedly say, “Nopales!” to his friend.

Photo Caption: Eliza is trying to finally get around to adding some aesthetic accents to the garden… it’s so easy to get distracted by practicalities!

We consider beauty to have its own uses in the garden and not everything we grow is there for us to harvest. We’ve enjoyed the recent addition of some benches, a tea cart, potted plants and other small hardscaping elements.

Photo Caption: Sky blue accents set off the cool-colored front yard beds. In the background is ‘Redventure’ celery, a red-stemmed celery that grows great in the winter. Since it is bolting, we’re saving seeds.

The garden is constantly changing, partly because we are often letting food plants go to seed. The honeybees worked our flowering brassicas like kale, turnips, collards, arugula, and radishes hard during the spring. Eventually we replaced them with summer plantings (usually when they start smothering their neighbors or finishing their life cycles).

Photo Caption: Blue and golden podded sugary peas have provided a nice cool season snack next to the garden benches. In the summer we’re replacing them with ‘White Currant’ tomatoes.

Sometimes we use our perennials as makeshift trellies — snow and sugar snap peas obliged us by climbing our native oakleaf hydrangea and redbud tree.

Photo Caption: Keep an eye out for these little dutchman’s pipes blooming right now in our front yard. In the mid-summer we find them covered in adorable gummy-bear like caterpillars that turn into stunning pipevine swallowtail butterflies.

Other plants are there for the bugs. When we want specific insects to help balance out the garden we use farmscaping techniques by finding out what they prefer to eat and planting it. Insect pest control has never been less work!

Photo Caption: Our black and red raspberries have been delicious for weeks!

We’re still thankful to Anna and Mark at The Walden Effect for giving us our now fully established black raspberries, red raspberries, and thornless blackberries. So far not a single berry has made it into the house.

Photo Caption: We also can’t wait to start harvesting our large, thornless blackberries.

Our brambles (raspberries and blackberries) line the driveway between a cinderblock wall and a barricade of straw bales. We like how the berries fill in between these 2 barriers and blocks all the light (and thus weeds) that grow underneath them.

Photo Caption: We’re already harvesting ‘Sweet Banana’ peppers and small eggplants, but we were late getting the tomatoes in and have a ways to wait still on those.

During Eliza’s pregnancy she wasn’t allowed to dig new beds. As a result, she started triaging all the vegetable starts by sticking them anywhere there was enough light and space in a pre-prepared bed.

Photo Caption: Flowers are interspersed among the edible plants for beauty, beneficial insect nectaries, and occasionally even have yummy blooms.

Tall flowering plants like snapdragons, veronicas, foxgloves, agastaches, salvias, and penstemons add structure to the garden and food for beneficial insects.

Photo Caption: Gaura is a lovely plant but difficult to photograph with our camera.

Eliza has been trying to relocate any orange and red flowering plants to the backyard in order to maintain a cool color scheme. There’s some stragglers but she’s getting close to reaching that goal.

Photo Caption: Our log retaining wall has started sprouting mushrooms. In the background is kohlrabi and a head-turning plant called a ‘Green Goddess’ calla.

In order to keep soil off the sidewalk, we used the most inexpensive material we could think of for a retaining wall — our neighbor’s discarded logs and woody debris. Some of it is quite sculptural and a few even have edible oyster mushrooms that fruit from them. The mushrooms pictured above are not a culinary variety.

Photo Caption: The garden is only 2 years old but is already starting to look somewhat mature due to the speed plants grow in hugel beds.

The plants will continue to fill in and help define the keyhole pattern of our beds vs. our mulched pathways.

Photo Caption: Some people love our white clover edging that provides a unifying deep green border, honeybee blooms, and soil fertility building nitrogen-fixing. Others don’t know that clover is a popular lawn alternative and ask if we planted it on purpose.

Since we don’t have a lawn it was never convenient to haul out a lawnmower for the grassy verge between the sidewalk and the road. Last fall we replaced it with white clover so that we only have to weed. We bookended either end with comfrey — a great weed barrier so our neighbor won’t have to keep clover out of his grass and vice versa.

Photo Caption: Both this native sedum and the viola in the background are edible.

We love to use native plants whenever possible. The dozens of species in our front yard includes mountain mint, sedum, hearts-a-bustin’, oakleaf hydrangea, clethra, piedmont azalea, northern river oats, woodland phlox, jack-in-the-pulpit, coreopsis, and pawpaw trees — our largest native fruit.

Photo Caption: If our landscaping plants aren’t edible they have other uses that support the overall garden ecology.

We also use a variety of exotic species that do not show aggressive tendencies.

Photo Caption: Cuphea are popular with beneficial insects and hummingbirds — they also look like adorable little fairy pets!

Eliza likes to find at least one new-to-her plant each season. She’d never seen pink cuphea before.

Photo Caption: This predatory soldier beetle is hanging out on some bolting lettuce. We love having it and similar species around because it means we rarely have to do anything about pest control.

We decided not to let our lettuce go to seed in the front yard because it looks like a weed to many people. We’re letting it and other unruly looking plants bloom and produce seed in the backyard instead.

Photo Caption: Though bumblebees are dying out in many parts of the country, they are thriving in our heavily blooming garden.

Many people never stop and really see a garden. We hope ours will turn some heads.

Photo Caption: Comfrey is an incredible nutrient accumulating plant that also has edible flowers, excellent honeybee nectar, and medicinal uses.

Sterile comfrey is well used in our landscape with some borders and individual plantings. It’s amazing how fast it grows and how great it is as a chop and drop fertilizer plant.

Photo Caption: You just have to see our pomegranate right now, it’s enormous and the blooms will make your mouth hang open.

If any of this has piqued your interest we’d love to see you at the garden open house this coming Saturday, bring a friend!

Drop-in June 14th, 9:00am – 5:00pm
Recommended donation of $2-$5
440 Summit Drive, Greenville, SC

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How to Eat Well While Learning on March 1st

The SC Organic Grower’s Conference just announced their locally sourced menu and it’s worth the price of the ticket just to eat lunch.

Photo Caption: The SC Growers School is locally sourcing as many ingredients from their lunch menu as possible, including greens like this chard.


“The Culinary Institute of the Carolinas does a magnificent job preparing local food. (The chefs also will ensure that we have plenty of choices for those of you who need a vegetarian lunch.)

Winter Kale Salad
with Rebecca’s Ginger Dressing

Sea Island Pea Hoppin’ John

Carolina Gold Rice Vegetable Jambalaya

Pulled Pork Shoulder
with Greens and Caramelized Onions

Culinary Institute of the Carolinas Meat Loaf
with Sorghum Glaze and Pan Gravy”

As if we needed additional temptation to attend on top of the 32 amazing class topics to choose from! It’s on March 1st at the Culinary Institute of the Carolinas, from 8am–4pm. Click here to get your tickets before they sell out! (Note that this is different from the Organic Growers School held the following weekend in Asheville).

If you aren’t planning to go, may I eat your lunch portion?

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How to Sign Up for February’s Classes

This month’s giveaway contest is over, congratulations to the winner, Christina Weit! Christina won four February classes.

Today is gorgeous, has spring fever hit you? Eliza’s urban homesteading classes at the Swamp Rabbit Cafe and Grocery start next week! Come learn about edible landscaping, backyard chickens, beekeeping basics, composting, and more… now is the time to get prepared for your best garden yet. Classes are $15.00 each or four for $50.00 (a $10.00 savings)! Click here to purchase winter classes online, call 864-255-3385 to purchase over the phone, or visit the cafe and buy them at the register.

Photo Caption: Eliza hand-painted the signs for the Swamp Rabbit Cafe & Grocery’s holiday flea.

Here’s the list of February’s class topics (all classes held in the upstairs room at the cafe and are from 6:15pm – 8:00pm):

COMPOSTING 101Monday, February 10th
Composting doesn’t have to be hard! Find out the difference between hot and cold composting, what goes in your compost, how much of each ingredient to use, how to keep compost from smelling bad, how to avoid fruit flies, how to start a worm bin, how to make compost tea, and how to use compost in the garden. $15 (or any 4 topics for $50) Purchase here

Thursday, February 13th
This course will cover edible plants that look beautiful in the landscape as well as ornamental plants that benefit a food garden. Find out which fruits and vegetables have great form, evergreen leaves, amazing fall color, and more! All the plants featured grow well in the upstate of South Carolina. $15 (or any 4 topics for $50) Purchase here

Monday, February 17th
Interested in beekeeping but don’t know where to start? This introductory course will show you the ins and outs of becoming a new beekeeper. You’ll learn what equipment you’ll need, how much time to set aside for hive chores, where to place your hives, what plants your bees will forage from in our area, how to find a local beekeeping mentor, and how to find sources for bees and materials. $15 (or any 4 topics for $50) Purchase here

Thursday, February 20th
Thinking about getting backyard chickens next spring? Come learn the basics in chicken housing, care, breeds, health, sources, and local laws. We’ll talk about starting with chicks or adults. This course is geared towards beginners and will cover everything you need to know to get started with backyard chickens… and even a little bit on ducks, too! $15 (or any 4 topics for $50) Purchase here

Monday, February 24th
Get a head start planning next year’s garden! Everything from placement, types of gardens, bed preparation, when to plant what, and tips for reducing your labor in the long run. Learn how to plan yields that will benefit your household, how to propagate your own plants, and where you can obtain what you need (with cost-saving advice). This course is geared toward beginner to intermediate gardeners. $15 (or any 4 topics for $50) Purchase here

Thursday, February 27th
One of the signs of a healthy garden ecosystem is the presence of animal life. We’ll talk about pollinators, toads, bats, turtles, flying squirrels, birds, butterflies, and much more (with a little advice on how to discourage animals from “oversharing” your garden). You can encourage the species you enjoy and benefit from the complex ecosystem roles they perform. We’ll teach you how to create habitat and homes for a wide variety of wildlife and how to provide the foods they prefer. $15 (or any 4 topics for $50) Purchase here

If you’re interested in these classes or any of the other topics on our schedule, you can sign up for them at this link or at the cafe.

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How to Win Four February Urban Homesteading Classes

First, I want to make sure everyone knows we’ll be presenting at the 2014 SC Organic Growing Conference on March 1st. Get your tickets before February 1st to get the early bird registration price.

Next, we’re running another urban homesteading class giveaway! Enter to win 4 tickets to my February classes at the Swamp Rabbit Cafe & Grocery (a $50.00 value):

February Homesteading Class Giveaway

The winner will be announced when the contest ends on Monday, February 3rd (contestants are notified via email and an update on this blog). I’m teaching six different topics in February and the winner will get to choose four of them. Classes are expected to sell out and can be purchased at this link. They’re $15.00 per class or  $50.00 for any 4 topics purchased together. You can also call or visit the Swamp Rabbit Cafe & Grocery and purchase them there.

*Edit 2/3/2014* Congratulations to Christina Weit for winning the contest! Continue reading How to Win Four February Urban Homesteading Classes

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How to Make a Pair of Permaculturalists Laugh So Hard They Have to Wait to Drive Home

Today Nathaniel and I did presentations at Gardening for Good‘s Community Gardening Symposium. Nathaniel sat in on a “Going Green in the Garden” discussion panel and I did a talk on “Perennial Vegetables.”

Photo Caption: Perennial Vegetables were popular; the room started to fill up 10 minutes before the class started. We added more chairs and by the end it was standing room only.

We weren’t at last year’s Community Gardening Conference so we didn’t know what to expect. It turned out to be a high-quality, affordable conference with thoughtful care put into choosing speakers, topics, and planning the day. We strongly recommend that you go when it rolls around next year.

Patryk Battle of Living Web Farms was the keynote speaker with a lecture on “Nature’s Default” — how an ecosystem will take care of its imbalances (like pests and disease) if you can stand to leave it alone long enough. He followed it up with a talk on “Soil Fertility” during the first breakout session. It was a thorough overview of the soil food web, cover crops, and how mushrooms can break down just about anything.

My talk covered a couple dozen perennial vegetables that can be grown in the upstate, from well-known asparagus to otherworldly Chinese artichokes. If you’re sorry to miss it, I’ll be repeating this class topic at my Swamp Rabbit Cafe & Grocery urban homesteading class series.

Nathaniel’s “Greening the Garden” panel was at the end of the day, alongside Rebecca McKinney, Cecil Leviner, and Anna Strick. The conversation started with garden projects and recycling before winding its way to composting, the soil food web, and mycoremediation.

The disappointing thing about symposiums is that we can’t attend ALL the lectures. Many of our friends did additional talks and we hear they were well-received.

At the end of the day we hung out with Sara Harding for a bit and then dropped by The Fresh Market on our way home to pick up sushi for our daughter’s dinner. Nathaniel also decided to get her a coconut… because Rayna likes coconuts.

If you’re wondering what all of this has to do with the title of the blog post, don’t worry, we’re finally here. I want to preemptively say that the woman checking us out at the Fresh Market cash register was delightful and we’re so glad she enjoys sharing random trivia with customers. That said, here’s the conversation that inspired so much glee:

Cashier: Wow! These are some gorgeous blood oranges!
Us: Yeah!
Cashier: Ooh, a coconut!
Nathaniel: Yep, it’s for my stepdaughter.
Cashier: Did you know they JUST discovered that coconut fibers last FOREVER?! I’m serious! The ONLY thing that can make them rot is bacteria!
Us: Uh.. Wow!

We managed to keep a straight face until we reached the parking lot. The people passing us on the way into the store probably wondered why we were squealing with laughter and saying, “ONLY bacteria!” and “FOREVER!!!!!!!” over and over and over again.

Photo Caption: This coconut will be here forever. FOREVER!

Yeah, we’re geeks. But you already knew that, right? Our permaculture friends understand why it was so funny. We swear!

That said, we are geeks, so I also want to present the source of info the cashier was so excited about — it’s actually pretty cool. She said, “they just discovered coconut fibers that are at least from the 17th century” as evidence that coconut fibers last forever. I can’t find any recent discoveries of ancient coconut fibers in the news, but I did find this Wikipedia info on a place called Oak Island in Canada that has this excerpt:

“In 1851, treasure hunters discovered fibres beneath the surface of one beach called Smith’s Cove. This led to the theory that the beach had been converted into a giant siphon, feeding water from the ocean into the pit via a manmade tunnel.

A sample of this material was sent to the Smithsonian Institution in the early 20th century, where it was concluded that the material was coconut fibre.[36] The origin of these fibres has been a source of heated debate among Oak Island researchers, since coconut trees do not occur naturally in Canada. Carbon dating was conducted on a sample in the 1960s and returned a date of 1200–1400 CE.”

The same Wikipedia article mentions the History Channel released a reality TV show called “The Curse of Oak Island” on January 5th, 2014. Perhaps it made mention of the coconut fibers and that’s why the cashier believed it was a recent discovery.

We”ll concede that coconut coir is rot resistant… but resistant isn’t synonymous with permanent. Organic matter might survive intact to antiquity in the right conditions, like 30,000 year old seeds. That doesn’t mean bread won’t mold if you leave it on the counter too long or wet grain won’t spoil in the chicken feeder.

Still though, as geeks we love that bacteria is not the only thing that can rot coconut fibers. Fungi and bacteria are not as tiny and insignificant as they might seem.

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How to Sign Up for Urban Homesteading Classes (New Payment System)

There’s a new way to purchase Eliza’s classes at the Swamp Rabbit Cafe & Grocery. We switched from Paypal to Marketsquare because it seemed easier for people to use. You can also call or visit the cafe if you prefer not to buy them online.

Click here to purchase classes from the winter schedule.
Click here to purchases classes from the spring schedule.

The purchasing links are also on our class description page.

Photo Caption: Eliza painted this sign for the cafe’s Holiday Flea in December. “Tons of Topics! Makes a Great Gift!”

So far each class has been sold out and we’re receiving lots of positive feedback. Hope to see you in class!

Click here to purchase classes from the winter schedule.
Click here to purchases classes from the spring schedule.

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How to Get Four Free Garden Classes at the Swamp Rabbit Cafe & Grocery

We’re giving away two free sets of Eliza’s January gardening classes! These classes are designed to turn a total beginner into someone who is comfortable designing and implementing their dream garden.

You have two opportunities to win — you get a point towards winning for liking Appalachian Feet on Facebook and another point for liking the Swamp Rabbit Cafe & Grocery. Act quickly! The contest is over at midnight on Saturday. USE THE BELOW WIDGET TO ENTER THE CONTEST, simply “liking” the Facebook pages won’t enter you to win.

CLICK HERE to enter the contest to win these four classes!

Update: Congratulations to Carys D. & Meredith S., winners of the January class raffle! (Marsha M. was an original winner but asked us to choose again since she was unable to attend).

If you can’t see the contest widget, please let us know.

Photo Caption: Selling classes at the Swamp Rabbit Cafe & Grocery Holiday Flea.

These are the four classes being given away in this contest, or you can click here to purchase the block of all 4 classes for $50.00. All the classes are from 6:15pm – 8:00pm in the upstairs room at the Swamp Rabbit Cafe & Grocery. You can purchase dinner to eat during class! If you win a class and can’t attend that night, you may give your slot to a friend.

  • Mon Jan 6th: Gardening in the Southeast for Beginners
    Brand new to gardening or stuck with a black thumb? Perhaps you have gardened somewhere else and are stumped by South Carolina’s red clay and summer heat? Don’t worry! This class will put you on track to becoming an expert in no time. Learn how to choose a garden site & style, improve your soil, figure out how much to water & fertilize, select plants, start seeds, make compost, and more!  Price: $15.00
  • Thur Jan 9th: Organic Gardening & Permaculture
    If you’re interested in organic gardening and ecology you’ll love permaculture! It just might be the solution to all the world’s woes. Come learn how to design your property as a high-yielding, low-maintenance, sustainable system. We’ll cover the permaculture design principles, gardening techniques frequently used in permaculture, how to grow edible plants in guilds, rainwater catchment, and the best ways to create your own home ecosystem in the upstate. Price: $15.00
  • Mon Jan 13th: Designing a Sustainable Garden (Getting Ready for Spring)
    Get a head start planning next year’s garden! Everything from siting the garden, styles of gardens, bed preparation, plant placement, when to plant what, and tips for reducing your labor in the long run. Learn how to plan yields that will benefit your household, how to propagate your own plants, and where you can obtain what you need (with cost-saving advice). This course is geared toward beginner to intermediate gardeners. Price: $15.00
  • Thur Jan 16th: Selecting Seeds and Plants for the Southeast
    This class will talk about the best edible plants you can grow in this area and whether they should be purchased as seeds or transplants. We will cover annual and perennial crops that can be harvested over all four seasons. Find out which heirloom seeds do best in our climate, native plants that bear tasty produce, and delicious fruits that can double as ornamentals in the landscape. This class is intended for beginner to intermediate gardeners. Price: $15.00
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How to Manage a Winter Garden

The best thing about winter salads is how easy it is to obtain a harvest. Cold months mean chores don’t have to be done in the heat, plus the pests and diseases are mostly dormant. You can’t beat the satisfaction of walking into the kitchen on a gray day carrying an armload of vibrant produce!

Photo Caption: This salad is composed of various greens, pea shoots, ‘Hakurei’ turnips, and radishes.

Winter gardening at Appalachian Feet is a combination of extending the growing season with cold-hardy varieties and frost protection while preparing beds for next season’s crops. It’s a great time of year for site selection, soil preparation, and choosing plants.

Photo Caption: UV plastic on low hoops provides protection for our winter crops. On the boundaries of the property we’re building hugelkultured keyhole beds.

For a long time now, the center of our yard has been a series of branching pattern rows. These were useful for crop rotation, but we’ve become skeptical of its benefits in a small scale polycultured garden. Our thought is that plant guilds and an exceptionally healthy soil food web will do a superior job of keeping plant illness at bay. Both our old and new designs have three main pathways that act like arteries for wheelbarrow supplies. The new design will involve more keyhole beds than straight rows, and some strategic swales for rainwater collection.

Instead of drip irrigation, we’ve decided to go with more hugelkultur. Our neighborhood is a bounty of unwanted wood (people pile it on the side of the road) and it takes us less than an hour to drive around and fill the truck bed with logs within a mile of our house.

Photo Caption: We’ve inoculated the wood in these keyhole beds with edible oyster mushrooms. In the next few weeks we’ll finish stacking the wood and add lasagna gardening layers on top to compost before spring. We’re also using the height of the hugel beds to block the chicken’s view of the garden — their run is behind the logs.

Keyhole beds are designed to optimize growing space vs. space “wasted” on pathways. Paths can have plenty of stacked functions (we use ours for composting, growing mushrooms, travel, and burying irrigation lines), but on a small property, growing space is even more valuable. The idea is that every space in a bed is able to be reached for planting, weeding, harvesting, mulching, and other maintenance with the least possible area devoted to pathways.

Another goal for some of our keyhole beds is for their height to block our chicken’s view of the garden. The saying “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence” was derived from livestock being able to see what they are missing. If they can’t see juicy tomatoes hanging on the vine or brilliant greens just waiting to be savored, they don’t feel as inspired to attempt an escape. We had considered buying a roll of 2′ high plastic to run along the bottom of our chicken fence, but we’d much rather use hugel beds to obscure the view. As an added benefit, we can plant crops chickens like to eat along the fenceline so they can peck the leaves through the fence holes. A little comfrey bocking #4 and coppiced mulberries ought to make them much happier than plastic sheeting.

Photo Caption: “Give us all your comfrey!” We put our chickens next to our neighbor’s fence to control the English ivy, periwinkle, Japanese honeysuckle, Carolina snailseed, greenbrier, poison ivy, autumn clematis, and other weeds that like to creep in under the fence. It took our ladies two years, but they are finally making headway on the vine problem. Last month we filled their run with the never-ending supply of leaves from our neighbor’s curb. The chickens are very happy with this worm-promoting litter, plus the mulch keeps the soil soft enough that the chickens have an easier time scratching up weeds. They also enjoy radish greens and other root veggie tops which we toss over the fence before carrying our harvest inside. Between these foraging options and their constant access to our compost pile, the chickens barely touch the commercial feed we supply them with.

Our chickens have enjoyed a little company lately, due to an adjacent neighbor acquiring their own chickens. Someone knocked on our door today to tell me that chickens were on the loose down the street. I wish I had a picture of his look of surprise when I said they weren’t my chickens! This is one trend I am happy to spread around. Also, if you’re worried, our neighbor’s chickens are now safely back in the coop.

Photo Caption: Our chickens are also enjoying cuttings from our cover crops. This photo is of milky oats and Austrian winter peas. We’re also growing winter rye, vetch, favas, and clover.

Cover crops are another great way to use the winter garden. You get to build soil, thwart weeds, retain water, and potentially harvest a small crop. We pinch tender shoots off the Austrian winter peas to put in salads, and we’ll be using milky oats for tea and medicine in the spring.

Photo Caption: Root vegetables and greens are at their peak performance in a winter garden. If you’ve ever had trouble growing carrots, celery, radishes, turnips, lettuce, beets, spinach, or cabbage you should try them in the winter.

Most people don’t realize the myriad of crops that do well in winter gardens. We’re currently growing kale, collards, raab, broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, cabbage, Chinese cabbage, bok choy, tatsoi, mizuna, arugula, salad radishes, daikons, rutabagas, turnips, lacy mustards, regular mustards, minutina, beets, spinach, lamb’s quarters, fennel, celery, carrots, cilantro, chervil, parsley, parsnips, scallions, endive, radicchio, chickory, lettuce, mache, chickweed, and more.

The majority of winter crops are easier grown directly in the ground from seed. Use more seeds than you think you’ll need and thin them to the proper spacing. Once the crops start maturing, you can harvest the largest plants to provide more room for the remaining plants to grow. For example, we plant our turnips closer than the recommended spacing and begin harvesting baby turnips when they reach ping pong ball size. As the crowded beds are thinned, the remaining turnips can reach sizes as great as a softball.

We also try to reduce kitchen preparation by taking care of some of the chores while we’re still outside. Turnip and beet greens are prized in our kitchen, but we’re less excited about hairy radish leaves. These get pulled off and fed to the chickens as a treat before we ever enter the house. Another trick for pre-prepping veggies is our winter rain bucket. In the winter, we don’t have to worry about mosquitoes infesting standing water. Leaving a bucket in the garden means we have a handy place to dip muddy root vegetables; thus, very little soil makes it into the kitchen. This water can also be used to irrigate thirsty plants.

Salad greens are harvested right into our salad spinner. Just a few snips with the scissors and we only have to rinse and spin.

Photo Caption: PVC pipe is one option for building low hoop beds. We also use flexible steel rods made for this purpose.

The beauty of low hoops are their low tech nature. You just need some sort of hoop frames (a smooth, curved edge is easiest to pull plastic on and off) and UV resistant plastic. All the heat comes from solar activity, no electricity is required. The rows should be covered when temperatures are below 50 ° F and removed when temps rise above 50 ° F.

It’s important to leave the plastic on when temps are below 50 ° F, even if your veggies can take freezing temperatures. Plants that take freezing temperatures are not actively growing when they are that cold. They survive, but just sit there. If you want winter veggies to ripen in the coldest months, row covers are required to keep them warm enough for active growth.

We watered daily from the time of sowing until the plants reached 2″ in height. After that, we mulched lightly and have mostly used rainwater for irrigation. Winter gardening requires more attentiveness to weather reports in order to plan when the covers should stay on or not.

Photo Caption: Weather variations make heading cabbages and lettuces some of the more challenging veggies to grow successfully in the south. We like to grow Chinese cabbages and loose-leaf lettuce varieties which are more reliable producers in mild weather climates.

Winter crops have few pests (no cabbage worms!) but do occasionally get aphids and slugs. If infestations get bad, try leaving the cover off hardier plants on a frosty (but not freezing) night to reduce the population. For aphids, you can also purchase mailorder ladybugs and release them under the plastic. If you’re lucky enough to have ducks, run them through your uncovered plants to take care of the slug problem.

Photo Caption: Chervil is a delicately flavored herb prized in French cooking. Sow it outdoors in February or under plastic all winter.

Winter weeds are another issue under low hoops. We remove volunteer seedlings like purple deadnettle, henbit, and speedwell before they set seed. We usually leave chickweed unless it is crowding a crop we want more. Try some chickweed in your salad and you’ll see why!

Our favorite source of seeds for the winter garden is Seeds From Italy. When it comes to broadcasting large beds of spinach, lettuce, or carrots we don’t want wimpy seed packets with less than a teaspoon of seeds in it. Seeds From Italy still provides impressively ample seed packets at a home gardener price.

Want a chance to taste-test some of this pretty produce? Sign up for our expert gardener class series or pick a different topic from the schedule!

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How to Become an Expert Gardener

We’ve got an amazing variety of class topics available right now — with limited seating so reserve your space ASAP!

Are you a beginner gardener? Our January block of classes starts with the absolute basics and ends with you knowing how to design your dream garden (and what plants to stock it with). Not only that, but they’re available on PayPal so you can even purchase them when the cafe isn’t open. If you don’t want to use PayPal, call or visit the Swamp Rabbit Cafe & Grocery to pick them up in person. Their number is (864) 255-3385. When you buy all 4 classes together you get $10.00 off the total price!

All classes listed here are from 6:15pm – 8:00pm in the upstairs room of the Swamp Rabbit Cafe & Grocery

(Click here to purchase the block of all 4 classes for $50.00)

  • Mon Jan 6th: Gardening in the Southeast for Beginners (click here to purchase this class by itself)
    Brand new to gardening or stuck with a black thumb? Perhaps you have gardened somewhere else and are stumped by South Carolina’s red clay and summer heat? Don’t worry! This class will put you on track to becoming an expert in no time. Learn how to choose a garden site & style, improve your soil, figure out how much to water & fertilize, select plants, start seeds, make compost, and more!  Price: $15.00
  • Thur Jan 9th: Organic Gardening & Permaculture
    If you’re interested in organic gardening and ecology you’ll love permaculture! It just might be the solution to all the world’s woes. Come learn how to design your property as a high-yielding, low-maintenance, sustainable system. We’ll cover the permaculture design principles, gardening techniques frequently used in permaculture, how to grow edible plants in guilds, rainwater catchment, and the best ways to create your own home ecosystem in the upstate. Price: $15.00
  • Mon Jan 13th: Designing a Sustainable Garden (Getting Ready for Spring)
    Get a head start planning next year’s garden! Everything from siting the garden, styles of gardens, bed preparation, plant placement, when to plant what, and tips for reducing your labor in the long run. Learn how to plan yields that will benefit your household, how to propagate your own plants, and where you can obtain what you need (with cost-saving advice). This course is geared toward beginner to intermediate gardeners. Price: $15.00
  • Thur Jan 16th: Selecting Seeds and Plants for the Southeast
    This class will talk about the best edible plants you can grow in this area and whether they should be purchased as seeds or transplants. We will cover annual and perennial crops that can be harvested over all four seasons. Find out which heirloom seeds do best in our climate, native plants that bear tasty produce, and delicious fruits that can double as ornamentals in the landscape. This class is intended for beginner to intermediate gardeners. Price: $15.00 (Click here to purchase the block of all 4 classes for $50.00)

Photo Caption: Learn how to select plants for your location, like these colorful tomatoes.

Not only will you become a knowledgeable gardener, you get to do it while looking at photo eye candy and eating delicious food. Treat your significant other or turn it into a hangout for a group of friends!


Photo Caption: Learn why flowers are a necessity in the vegetable garden.

Again, here’s the link to purchase the block of all 4 classes for $50.00 or contact the Swamp Rabbit Cafe & Grocery to purchase any 4 classes for the same discount. You can choose from anything on the schedule. Gift certificates are available upon request!


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How to Take Eliza’s Classes at the Swamp Rabbit Cafe & Grocery

Scenario: Instead of figuring out what’s for dinner, head over to the Swamp Rabbit Cafe & Grocery to choose from their delicious menu and enjoy an evening of information and inspiring photo eye-candy. Cappuccino? Soup? An entire bar of artisan chocolate? Treat yourself or buy a gift for a friend!

The choice of topics is huge and there’s something to interest everyone. Beginner? Expert? Permaculture? Perennial Veggies? Heirloom Seeds? Edible Flowers? Native Plants? Wild Foraging? Wildlife Habitats? Backyard Chickens? Beekeeping?

Click here for the class schedule.

Photo Caption: Class gift certificates are available upon request at the Swamp Rabbit & Cafe register.

Classes are held in the upstairs room at the Swamp Rabbit Cafe & Grocery for $15.00 each or four for $50.00 ($10 off the total price). Colorful gift certificates are available upon request at the cafe register. Seating is limited so make sure to reserve your classes soon!

Note that the first four classes in the series (Mon Jan 6th: Gardening in the Southeast for Beginners, Thur Jan 9th: Organic Gardening & Permaculture, Mon Jan 13th: Designing a Sustainable Garden (Getting Ready for Spring), and Thur Jan 16th: Selecting Seeds and Plants for the Southeast) are designed to make a total beginner into a knowledgeable gardener. You’ll start with the basics and finish by designing and choosing plants for the garden you’ve always dreamed of. If you already know the basics of growing things, you may want to swap the “Gardening in the Southeast for Beginners” class for one of the other class listings.

The Swamp Rabbit Cafe & Grocery is located at 205 Cedar Lane, Greenville, SC 29611 or you can call them at (864) 255-3385.

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How to Visit our Q&A Table on the Urban Farm Tour

Hey everyone! Even though our home isn’t on the Greenville Urban Farm Tour this year, we’ll still be at the North Main Organic Garden tomorrow to answer questions and talk to people. Nathaniel and I will be at the Appalachian Feet table from 9:00am until early afternoon (so if you want to see us, don’t come too late in the day). We hope to see you there!

You’ll also be able to sign up for the SC Upstate Permaculture Society (free and open to beginners).

Photo Caption: This was our table at the 2012 Urban Farm Tour.

If you haven’t bought your tickets yet, you can get them online at this website or pick them up in person tomorrow at GOFO’s Crescent Studios headquarters.

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How to Find Eliza’s Beekeeping Article Online

My beekeeping article from the summer 2013 issue of edible Upcountry magazine is now available online. Many thanks to Carolina Honey Bee Company for hosting such fantastic classes. Our three hives are still doing great!

Click here or on the image below to see the article:

Photo Caption: Click on the image to see the article. Photo Credit: Brian Kelley

You can pick up hardcopies of edible Upcountry at locations all over the Upstate, including the Swamp Rabbit Cafe & Grocery.


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