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From Lemons to Lemonade

Everyone has heard the saying “When God gives you lemons, make Lemonade”, no truer words were spoken when it comes to gardening. Some times it all works out, but other times you get lemons. My lemons have come in the form of storms here the last several weeks, and with the damage and loss came learning. My lemonade. Everyone can stand to learn some things that you didn’t know before, and I will share what I learned with you!

As I have mentioned before our garden tends to be an ongoing lesson of trial and error. This year is no exception. With those trials, the errors have been a few new ones…

The Sunflowers

Photo by David Dibert on

I’ve been raving about these sunflowers to anyone that will listen, and read this blog. They were taller than the shed, and were an estimated sixteen feet tall. Until the storm hit. We came home to find sixteen feet of sunflower forest laid down on top of the poblanos, across the jalapenos, and the sunbursts amid the tomatoes. The high winds from the storm completely uprooted the sunflowers! I mean LITERALLY uprooted them leaving the roots exposed, and fresh dirt revealed beneath. I was really disappointed needless to say.

So with disappointment comes learning! The plan for the sunflowers originally was just harvesting the seeds to supplement the chickens with protein through the winter. With that plan dashed I began scouring my garden books looking for a new use for these sunflowers. Did you know that the ENTIRE sunflower plant is use able, and even edible? Now I am not running right out to fry up some sunflower roots for supper, but I did make good use of the loss.

Rooster, the oldest, and I pulled them all from the garden, and transferred them root ball and all over to the chicken run. In no time at all they, the chickens, ate the leaves, and devoured the sunburst heads. What is left behind now is just the stalk of the plant. Several inches in diameter these stalks are tough as bamboo. (That is a guesstimate I’ve never been around bamboo). Since the chickens have done their work of removing the leaves, and tops my idea is to take the stalks, and create a windbreak along the fence. This will cut down on snow drifts in the run, and should provide some shelter that we would not have had before. If the stalks last the winter they would also provide shade come next spring. Pretty creative if I do say so myself.

The Sweet Corn

corn field
Photo by Todd Trapani on

Growing corn was a gamble anyways for me. I had never grown it before, and in previous years I had always seen neighbor Jim’s little row of corn get destroyed in high winds. This was my year for the destruction apparently as Jim is probably looking down and laughing at my attempt. Yes, I knew better, but again for the love of the chickens I thought it’d be another supplement to feed and scrap through the cold months.

Same story as the sunflowers, the five rows of corn were destroyed, and offered to the storm gods. You might ask what you can do with corn that hasn’t fully developed, or if it’s even worth salvaging. Everything from the garden is worth salvaging! So, youngest and I headed out into the corn patch, and began plucking all the undeveloped ears. Once we plucked them we dehusked them. The husk and silk from the corn cobs make great nest material for the ducks and chickens, and the little ears of corn gave them something to nibble on even if it was a small snack.

Now out in the garden we have yet to pull the stalks of corn (we got rained out), but the plan is the same as the sunflower stalks. Create a wind block in the chicken run. Waste not want not.


red and green fresh tomatoes
Photo by Roon Z on

It really is a crying shame what the storms did to the tomato plants. Whatever growth was peering out of the top of the tomato cages has been broken off. I was hoping the tomatoes would still ripen, but as of yet that seems like a lost cause. So since you can not give green tomatoes to pigs they went to the chickens. The ripened tomatoes that had become buggy were treats for the chickens. What was ripened at that point I was able to can on Sunday twenty jars!

I’ve been told by a neighbor’s mother that we have raised a spoiled pig. Honey will not eat greens, of any form. This pig loves nothing but scrambled eggs and couscous. So the leafy greens from the sunflowers and tomatoes are wasted on the spoiled pig. All of those greens are enjoyed by the chickens.


green plants field
Photo by Michael on

The lettuce got overrun by snails, which again was a double treat for the chickens. Snails and lettuce. Which if you weren’t aware lettuce gives ducks diarrhea. The guy we call “Duck Dave” where we got the first run of ducks from would only feed his ducks a truckload of lettuce. Which you can imagine is just as awful as you would think. We only give out ducks lettuce sparingly. No one wants to deal with duck diarrhea. In case you were also wondering duck diarrhea is just as slippery as one would suspect when wearing muck boots. I’ve always wondered where the saying “slicker than owl shit” came from when slicker than duck shit seems more fitting.

I’m hoping for a better fall planting of lettuce that doesn’t become overrun by snails or other garden bugs. We shall see how it fairs alongside the Noble Spinach I planned on planting. The Noble Spinach is supposed to be a larger leafed green, and I thought that it would freeze or dry well for soups in the winter.

In Summary

When summer storms throw lemons at your garden, and hopeful harvest. Find the good, find the alternate use, and waste not want not. All in all it comes down quite simply to remembering to live a simple life.

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