Fava Beans In N. C. and an Ark of Ancient Seeds

Ancient Fava Beans.  Thousands of years old and still going strong. They were cultivated in the Middle East, carried over through Europe, and have been found in some of the earliest excavated settlements.  Wikipedia says “In Egypt, the beans were considered commoner food and were shunned by the upper classes”   Today, You can find gourmet dishes and recipes that are fit for an epicure such as “Fava and Mint Pesto”, “Mexican Fava Bean Soup”, and “Warm Wheat Berry Salad with Fava and Trout Roe”.  I had a hard time finding out if anybody grows Fava beans in my area of North Carolina, even my County Extension Agent had to resort to the internet to help me answer my question.   North Carolina is temperate in nature and has three distinct growing seasons suitable for food production.  Fava beans in the north are traditionally planted in fall, but they can be planted in very early spring in warm climates, so I decided to try it for myself and see if it could be done.

Baby Fava Beans

Fava Beans after 18 Days

I planted 15 Beans purchased from the “ultimate” heirloom variety catalog, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange      They have some heirloom seeds that can be traced back generations to Thomas Jefferson of Monticello, white flour corn from the Cherokee Native Americans, Watercress (creasy greens) a variety that kept shipwrecked sea mariners alive over the winter on Belle Isle.  There is a story behind the “Turkey Gizzard” variety of pole beans that the two beans were found in the craw of a wild turkey in the early 1800’s and they were planted, and saved and spread across a region.   Through the medium of seed savers and generations of families saving the “seeds that PaPa planted” we still in the age of wild genetic manipulation of original seed stock can still have a piece of what I consider “living history”.

I am excited to see if 80 -90 days from now if the Favas will produce flowers and beans, so stay tuned for more updates on how they do in the early spring.  Also, think about becoming a seed saver, it can be as simple as choosing one variety to plant year after year for your family that can become a tradition,… you never know where a seed might go!

The Joy of Chickens

Watching the birds is now a daily activity.  A habit like someone watching the soaps on tv.  There are relationships , squabbles, fights over who sleeps where, and Roody the rooster trying to sneak up on unaware hens.  Then there are peaceful moments like this shot where they seemed to be enjoying the sunshine, preening and just being a part of nature, a pose not possibly composed by my efforts.


The chickens are just happy go lucky critters in general…with little personalities to boot.  All five red hens are sisters… and the original flock.  Two of them are extra friendly and will squat down when you put your hand on them and let you pick them up and pet them.  They are called The Squatty Sisters. One is perfectly plump and has flawless feathers and is called “Prizey” for being the one to take to the county fair.  She doesn’t like to be messed with, but will come up to eat snacks you bring.  There is Henrietta and our newest edition is a large black hen called Isabella.  Our one and only rooster is Roody.

Here is Henrietta up close…

henrietta close up

Crossed legs…red carpet style


Hearing them cackle loudly in the nest when they lay an egg is really funny…its like they are hollering that “something just happened!”  They take dust baths and wallow in the driest powdery dust they can find and flutter wings and feathers to spread it all over them.  The best part of having them is collecting eggs every day, I know that if at any time there were no food in the pantry, I can always have eggs; pie, omelet, boiled egg, fried egg.  That’s nice and also the rewarding part of chicken keeping.  It helps you realize and observe circles of life and how everything in interconnected.   Chickens fertilize the garden, keep bug population down, create eggs and meat, drink rainwater, if pastured require little or no feed to upkeep,… and can reproduce more chicks in 21 to 23 days! Read  Why You Should Raise Chickens for Eggs by Rachel Falco for a short but thorough look at benefits.

big egg

A jumbo egg compared to normal

There are a thousand different scenarios in the yard every day, it’s never dull or boring to go outside and stroll…

Roody mid-crow

Roody mid-crow

Here’s one on the nest, wanting a little privacy to lay her egg of the day.  Each hen lays “about” one egg a day, some are off every day or so.

on the nest


They voluntarily come back to the pen at night to go to roost in the coop, no rounding up necessary. They will also come back inside the fenced pasture to rest midday and check for goodies….

yard shot


You can see the personality in almost every shot!

photo bomb chick

Photo Bomb!!!!!!!


Here’s gentle Isabella getting acquainted…….

Isabella in the clan


I want to encourage others to try backyard flocks and experience the simplicity of life with chickens.  Don’t forget that you do NOT have to get a rooster to have hens that lay eggs.  They all lay eggs with or without a rooster. The only difference with having a rooster is the eggs laid will be fertilized and could be incubated to hatch out.

A  day  with chickens is a day with joy, no matter what is happening in the world around.



Building a chicken coop with reclaimed materials

First of all, thank God for his abundant blessings , and somehow a chicken coop fits into the category of miracles.  The building materials for this “dream” project were derived from construction debris, free Craigslist postings, cedar poles from the woods, an old above ground swimming pool, and the labor from friends.  In one day this project was brought to completion, and interestingly it was the first day of the week of Tabernacles, (Sukkot) a biblical festival in the fall when you celebrate by building rudimentary huts and living in them for a week. Historically this is the type of structure Jesus was born in, we would call it a “manger” in modern times.  The inspiration for this started at a spring Festival of Pentecost, (Shavuot).  The idea of the chicken coop was born a full six months before, but it only came to fruition at the very last minute for us to celebrate the fall festival.   Donnie and I decided to celebrate in the chicken coop! Very special.

The cedar poles were cut down and placed in the ground and filled with purchased “sakrete” first, extending off the side of an existing brick well house.  Other straight-ish young trees were harvested for roof poles. This was done first, before any materials were scavenged for walls.  We put these up…


We had to purchase a few 1×4’s to make roof slats to support the roof made from an old swimming pool wall of metal…That is me holding the line!


Check out the stump lower left… we had to remove a tree that was dangerous

We sloped the roof slightly to one corner so we can collect rainwater in a barrel to water the chickens with.  The metal roof was applied with purchased roofing nails…



We got this part done first by ourselves then waited and considered how to make walls.  On Wednesday, before Tabernacles,  a local craigslist post showed free fence sections.  We were off in brothers truck to get them….



On Sunday we rounded up brother,  and two friends  (amazingly) in the morning to figure out how to put all this mess together! Such expertise from our fine helpers…



The fence sections were tacked to the brick well house wall, and to the cedar poles…


We added support poles as needed from scavenged wood..




When all three walls were done, a door was cut from a section, and hardware was applied from the stuff collected from the craigslist guy….Also we stapled chicken wire, from the craigslist guy… just enough to complete the enclosure.


Rocks piled along edges to keep critters out



Then we celebrated Tabernacles by sleeping in the coop and eating on an open fire for 7 days! So much fun… ( the leftover pieces of fence in foreground were later used to make laying boxes and housing places for the chickens)


We cooked on a campfire made from logs of the tree we cut down… Donnie’s ingenious ideas at work….Roll two large logs together and kindle fire between them and place grate on top…the concrete blocks were used to level the heavy pot, but the logs were rolled inwards as the fire burned with no effort.  In fact, the fire did not go out all week using this method ( adding a new log maybe once more) each log burned a couple of days..



Here is a nice meal of vegetable stew (from the garden 3 or 4 years ago…vintage), grain bread and tea..


Black bean chili the next night..



Another cool set up…



This was all in all an act of faith on our part and all glory to our Creator YHVH!  He is so wonderful!  We did not know how to celebrate, but we were shown many miracles and lessons through this very humble chicken coop.





Instant garden success!

Yay for instant gardens!  No tilling, no gas to buy, all materials are free or cheap,  and weeding is down 90%!!!

I got this idea from Geoff Lawton, he posted this quick video on how to create an instant garden on YouTube here .  What’s really cool is he uses what looks like garbage to lay over the existing grass to smother weeds out as well as retain moisture( paper products are biodegradable and just turn right back into dirt)

Here are some sources of organic material that you can layer in your own backyard growing space:

  • Grass clippings
  • Straw
  • Composted chicken manure/bedding
  • Leaves
  • Composted or “old” horse or cow manure
  • Free tree trimmings from your local tree service (leaves and wood, not only wood)
  • Newspaper
  • Pizza boxes/cardboard/cartons and boxes of any sort

Now, if you have a grassy lawn, just start laying down paper.  If you’re working in an old field like us, you may need to remove woody growth first.  We had blackberries taking over.


We went to the neighbors burn pile and got the pizza boxes (yes we have burn piles and barrels in these parts), and the large cardboard came from a dumpster on one of Donnie’s tile jobs.  The one we did before was made solely with junk mail and old phone book pages ripped out!  So much fun using that….

We had several buckets of horse manure mixed with shavings from the stables (free!).  It was old and had composted to become a rich, black dirt.


I did some mowing while Donnie did thorn removal!  Getting ready to gather the grass clippings to cover the top…

This is a final shot of the one next to it, I forgot to shoot the big one we did today……


Today is the first of March and we are hoping to have the seedlings transplanted into this area within a few weeks.

If you want to sow seeds directly into a bed such as this you will need to add a layer of finer soil to the top so that the tiny seeds will have a place to germinate.  This method is for planting young plants, and remember you will need to poke out the cardboard to put the plant deep.

We’ll see how this goes, it is very exciting to see all the available areas to plant things, and not see weeds anywhere.   As time goes on we will continue covering the areas to smother out new weeds that may pop out.  Creating soil instead of diminishing it….and no need to fertilize!   Watch this free movie/documentary to see all the benefits of growing by covering your garden instead of tilling it……www.backtoedenfilm.com

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Happy gardening!!