In today's episode, I'm talking with Jessica Sowards from Roots & Refuge Farm and we're discussing foolproof methods that you need to build into your gardening plan. When gardening overwhelm sets in, having these methods available means there's less stress to be had!
Jessica and Jeremiah Sowards (aka “Jess” and “Miah”) have been gardening, homesteading and raising their six children on a small farm in Arkansas. They're excited to announce they have just purchased land in North Carolina and are getting ready to head east for big dreams to come to fruition.
It's their desire to “create a place at the table” through their YouTube channel, where others can follow along on their journey, learn some great gardening tips, and maybe have a laugh (or cry) together.
Today we're discussing how to beat the gardening overwhelm that sets in for every gardener each year (there are concrete steps you can do at planting time to build in motivation!), and connecting over smelling our tomato plant leaves while salivating for big juicy tomatoes to be ripe on the vine.
In This Episode:
- How Jess creates a garden that is a place of beauty and enjoyment.
- Jess shares how she's a “reformed lazy girl” and managed to transformed her life into an expression of worship through creating a beautiful garden, which is now her favorite place to be in the world.
- Why Jess got into heirloom gardening.
- Elements that make a garden space your favorite place to be.
- How they built their reclaimed window frame greenhouse and how they use it to extend the growing seasons.
- How God uses weeding in the garden to weed out areas of my life that need work.
- Verse of the week: Philippians 4:6-7
- Connect with Jess on YouTube at Roots & Refuge Farm.
- On Instagram @roots_and_refuge
- Grab her book, The First-time Gardener: Growing Vegetables: All the know-how and encouragement you need to grow – and fall in love with! – your brand new food garden.
Melissa K Norris: Hey there Pioneers and welcome to episode number 304. Today's episode is really a fun one, I think you're going to enjoy it, we are going to be going over foolproof methods that you need to build into your garden because when the [hot 00:00:21] times come with gardening, or the overwhelm begins to set in, and as much as I love gardening, there are definitely times of the year when sometimes I get a little bit overwhelmed and I may ask myself, why am I Putting in all of this work? Now I always come back and center to my why, I absolutely know why I am doing all of this work. And if you have been gardening for any amount of time, or especially I should say, if you have been gardening for an amount of time for a while, you know this is true too, that there's always those times when you're like, "Is this really worth it?" And we know it absolutely is worth it, but we all have those times. So today's episode is really great because there's some ways that you can build in, fool proofing yourself, setting yourself up so that when that garden overwhelm happens, you have got some things in place that will quickly set you right back one into being in love with your garden and loving the gardening process, and also getting you right back in there and out of the overwhelm.
Melissa K Norris: We actually have some other fun things too, where we're going to be talking about that sets off the entire episode. And we get into that right in the beginning. But then we've also got some things where we're talking about green houses, and growing in a high tunnel and a greenhouse, so different things like that, that I think you're really going to enjoy. So basically, if you are a gardener, if you want to be a gardener, you are a gardener and you have a gardener's heart, you're going to love this episode. Which is sponsored by Butcher Box, and you might be like, "Wait a minute, you just did a 180 there." Well, I love gardening, and that definitely takes care of a lot of our fresh produce needs with our fruits and vegetables, but if you're a gardener, you know the difference between when you have a home grown vine-ripened tomato, and you buy into that one, you know it's not been sprayed with any pesticides. It doesn't have any synthetic fertilizer on it. It's been allowed to fully ripe on the vine, so it is a flavor like none other that you never get from the grocery store, even when it says vine-ripened from the grocery store, you know there is no comparing that heirloom beautifully grown vine-ripened home, grown tomato in comparison to a store-bought ripe. There just isn't.
Melissa K Norris: Well, I want you to have that same experience with your meat, with all of your food. And if you're not at a place yet where you're able to raise all of your own livestock, and be self-sufficient with your meat needs, or you don't have a local farmer that is meeting those needs, then Butcher Box is a great alternative. Butcher Box reached out to me and asked if they could send me some of their meat, And at first I was like, well we raise all of our own meat. I really don't need any, but then I'm like, I actually, they have seafood, and the only for that we provide for ourselves is crab, we have a little 17" foot ski boat where we go crabbing in. Yes, you can really close to the bay I can shore, you can do it. And we also have salmon, we're really fortunate with my husband's work, he gets a salmon bonus, which is wild [count 00:03:29] salmon.
Melissa K Norris: But aside from that, we don't really purchase any seafood, and they have seafood option, all wild and ethically caught. I actually am not a huge seafood fan except I like halibut, probably because it really doesn't taste like fish if I'm being honest, but my husband is a seafood aficianado, he adores seafood. So, I got him some of the wild caught lobster. Now, why am I sharing all of this with you? Well, because one, as I said they sponsored this episode, but really I had them send me, they sent me some packages. I wanted to taste tests, their grass fed organic grass finished beef, grass fed and grass finished is really important to me, because technically companies can put grass fed on their beef, but they will feed them grain at the end, so you want to make sure it says grass fed and grass finished. They also have free range, true free range organic chicken, heritage bred pork. And it's all sourced from partners and farmers who believe in doing things the right way and the ethical way, and that's a really big deal to me.
Melissa K Norris: I also wanted to see how their 100% grass fed grass finished beef was, compared to ours. I tested out their hamburger, and their steaks. The steaks were excellent, the steaks were the same as ours, so I could tell no difference, as far as tenderness and texture, flavor, excellent. The ground beef was interesting, their ground beef was very good, however it wasn't quite as bright red as ours, it was still a very beautiful nice color, not like you get from the store, you know what I'm talking about. It wasn't quite as red as ours if I'm being honest, which I am, and theirs was leaner than ours, which I don't mean that as a pro or a con, but it was leaner than ours, it didn't have quite as much liquid when I was cooking it, which is like I said, it's not a pro or con. But flavor wise it was very good, I really didn't tell any difference as far as flavor goes. And the really cool thing is using ButcherBox.com/PioneeringToday you can get a three pounds of chicken breast, two pounds of pork chops, and two pounds of ground beef for free, for a limited time for new members.
Melissa K Norris: So, it's called the free essential bundles, and it's with your first box. And if you use ButcherBox.com/PioneeringToday, then you'll get added to your first box. That three pounds of the chicken breast, two pounds of pork chops and two pounds of ground beef, which actually tried some of their chicken. They sent me a package of their chicken breasts last night and made a coconut Thai chicken for myself and the family, which is one of our absolute favorite recipes. Again, very good high quality, extremely tender, was very impressed with the meat. So, if you need a meat sauce to go along with all of your wonderful vegetables and fruit, highly recommend taking advantage of that deal.
Melissa K Norris: But now who let us get back to this awesome episode with Jessica Sowards from Roots and Refuge, and Jess is a native Arkansan, hopefully I said that right, who is homesteading gardening, and sharing her journey through social media. She and her husband Jeremiah are raising their six children on a small hobby farm and the Central Arkansas Region, which if you are already a fan of Jess and their YouTube channel Roots and Refuge, then you know that they just announced that they are moving from their small hobby farm to a new farm in another state. So, a really fun journey to watch unfold, and it is now been announced to the public because I actually got to chat with Jess a little bit about that, when we were recording this episode, but now that it's announced to the public I can actually say that. So, without further ado, let's get straight to this episode. I am so excited for today's interview. So Jessica, or if I'm following in YouTube version, but it feels so forward of me to call you Jess,[welcome to 00:07:31] Pioneering Today podcast.
Jessica Sowards: Thank you so much. And it's funny that you should say that, my whole family called me Jess growing up, but that was really just like a very intimate name, and same with Maya. I think myself and his mother, we're the only people who called him that. But then we turned the camera on, in our private world and just became Jess and Maya to the whole world, and now of course that's completely normal, and I introduced myself that way, but it's funny that nickname wasn't always just a public thing, but now it's just become who we are. It's really cool.
Melissa K Norris: It is very funny. One of the things too, that I noticed about your YouTube channel is how, and I know this could maybe sound odd, but how intimate it does feel, it really does feel that we're right there in the garden with you, that we're amidst your family. I know your dog's name is bear, and my dog's name is Bow I'm like, "What is up with us and our dog names starting with b. But yeah, and so it's been actually really cool, and I have to say, I feel like that's probably one of the aspects as to why, obviously you have good content because it doesn't matter, how intimate, and how welcome you make people feel, if what you're sharing is not helpful to them. So, obviously all of your gardening tips are very helpful, but I feel like that's one of the reasons I love to watch you guys' videos too, it's because I feel like, "This is like my garden and BFF, Jess, even though she doesn't know me."
Jessica Sowards: Well, thank you so much. It's always been my desire to create a place at the table, is how I put it. Because I've been extremely blessed in my life to have a marriage where I have such a friendship and my marriage, and a family, and a handful of really great close friends, and I recognize because of seasons in my life that I didn't have that, that a lot of people really desire to have a heart connection and community. And so it's the reason why my blogs just start, there's no intro, and there are some things that are very intentional, because I really want people to feel like they just popped in, to spend some time with people who love them, and receive them in their home.
Melissa K Norris: Well, I think you do a really good job of that. And I think that's something that the world is very hungry for, even before COVID pandemic, but especially during that, and even this season, I guess we're technically still in it, even though some places are opening up more than others, but I feel like there's a real hunger for that. And so I think it's really fabulous that you've been able to [breed 00:10:11] a space like that with the gardening and the home setting aspect as well, with livestock and all of that stuff. So-.
Jessica Sowards: Thank you.
Melissa K Norris: Yes. So, I'm really excited actually though, to talk to you today about gardening, because we're moving into that season, and it's very near and dear to my heart. And one of the things I think that I noticed right off the bat, honestly even in your thumbnails on YouTube and I know guys I'm referencing YouTube a lot, but that's how I first became aware of Jess and everything. And you always, especially with your thumbnails, but even in your videos, you always seem to exude a lot of joy around gardening. And I love that because I have to be honest, I have really focused, we've been growing a garden for 21 plus years and focused on always increasing our food production to where the level that we're at now, which is over 70% of our fresh fruits and vegetables and also preserved [wise 00:11:09] come from our garden. So, I was working almost full-time though sometimes two jobs actually while still doing that, and so my focus was very heavy on production, getting them plants, and getting them to harvest, getting them preserved, all of that. And I didn't really have the time or even the intent, and of course I do think a vegetable garden is beautiful, but creating spaces of beauty, and creating it to be a spot where it was also a respite that it just wasn't just work focused, even though it was work that I enjoyed.
Melissa K Norris: And that was something that you really brought forward when I was going through your book. And I was actually reading it last night before interview, so I wanted to go back there, because it's something that I have been slowly working on doing. And I feel the past few years, I've made a lot of headway on creating aspects of beauty, but I would love for you to dive into that and then talk some practicality on creating that space.
Jessica Sowards: Yeah. It's, I didn't realize whenever I started what an important message that this was going to be, because it was something that really did come very naturally to me. I've always been very inspired by beautiful spaces, I remember even being a really young woman, a teenager, and I always wanted to put artistic aspects up in my bedroom, or whenever I got older and had an office I needed the space, not necessarily to be, I wasn't always worried about the function of it, but rather the inspiration and the beauty. And that carried over into the garden, as an artistic person, that carried over.
Jessica Sowards: The other thing, and I mean just to speak freely here, and I don't always write this stuff out but it is a big factor for me, but I remember a moment that I had in prayer where I thought, some people paint as worship, and some people dance, and some people sing, and people play instruments. And I thought, well surely we could grow a garden that way also, because I think anything that we create, we're doing it as image bearers as of the creator. And so, we have this aspect of creating something beautiful, and giving it back. There've been so many little factors like that, that have gone into it. The other big thing, in full transparency, I am [a 00:13:28] completely reformed lazy girl, I grew up in a neighborhood, I grew up just a very typical suburban American middle class life, and I did not play a lot of sports, I was a sick kid, and so I didn't have the opportunity to really physically work my body a lot, and I just didn't, and I had kids young, and I had a pretty sedentary life. And when I really had this great desire to grow food, I ran into what you, I mean you said it's a ton of work, it's hard, and it stretches you.
Jessica Sowards: And I thought, how can I stick with this? And the solution was, well you've always done well anywhere else, that was a beautiful and inspiring space. In applying that is really where I found the aspect like, this can be worship, this can be something that I can do as an expression, and it morphed into this mentality and this thing that I teach people, that the best medicine for your garden is the presence of the gardener. And so make it a place that you want to be, because I throw my hands up and quit gardening, I don't know, probably 10 times a season, especially in July. I quit it every day in July. I'm like, "This is bad, I don't like this." I do it, I'm committed, but I'm like,["Oh it stinks." 00:14:47] But I can't stop going to the garden, I love it, it's my favorite place to be in literally the entire world, and I've been a lot of places. My garden is my favorite place to be.
Jessica Sowards: Because when I go there and I see all the beautiful aspects, and the interesting plants, and the love that was put into that place, that's where I want to be in. So, I take my coffee there, I make intentional times for rest there, throughout the season. So, when I show up there, it's not just to work, and a lot of times I throw my hands up at the work, but I still go back for the cup of coffee in the morning, and while I'm there, the next thing I know I'm pulling this weed, and tying up this plant, and you just can't help yourself when you're in a space that you love, but to take care of it.
Melissa K Norris: Okay. I just have to say, I am so happy that you said that, you quit every [crosstalk 00:15:35] Sometimes I am like, "This is hard, I don't want to do it today[inaudible 00:15:44]". And I'm like, "How can I say that? I do love it, I really do love it, and I preach raising your own food it." And I teach it, but there are moments where it does feel overwhelming, and from our growing season because I think we're, I'm more north than you obviously. And so for me, it hits an August, so I know what you're saying. I'm like, "Yeah, there's this time when it feels like everything is on, and this jungle, which is good because that means everything's growing really awesomely." But it just feels like this overwhelm can set in, but I love what you said like, 'Yeah, it happens every day and you just keep trucking." Because I feel that's what you do an all aspects for me of homesteading, I mean there's nights where I got to tell you by [inaudible 00:16:24], I do not want to cook dinner from scratch that night, I've already got it for breakfast, and have done it for lunch, and I'm just done. But it has to be done. And so we go forth and do it, so I love though that you have found ways to help you get over that, wanting to quit spot, and by cultivating that with beauty.
Melissa K Norris: So what are some of the ways, for those who haven't seen your garden, via the YouTube channel. What are some of the ways that you like to incorporate beauty? Is it just by selecting, beautiful flowers that possibly are companion plants, or maybe just for beauty, or is it other elements that you're bringing in, or is it just picking a really cool heirloom varieties that are both edible, but are really cool to look at? Or kind what's your protocol, so to speak?
Jessica Sowards: To those questions, I say, yes.
Melissa K Norris: To what?
Jessica Sowards: All those things. Well the first thing, really how I got into heirloom gardening was that that exhaustion of the heat of the summer. And I have this particular memory where I had just been slaving over a row of squash plants, and picking off all the bugs, and working so hard on my garden, and I went into the grocery store, and there was yellow squash, naturally it's in season, and it was $0.79 a pound. Now I know that home grown tastes better, it is better, it's better for you, it's better for the earth, all of those things. But the squash in store looked an awful lot, like the squash I was working for, and I thought, "I just spent my whole morning protecting $3 worth of squash, what in the world am I doing with my life right now?" And so that is where I really took the leap into heirlooms, because it helps me to know, if I don't show up I will never get to experience that, there's no safety net of, "Well if this fails, you can go get the exact same thing at the store."
Jessica Sowards: You can't have it, you cannot go buy a purple tomato, and a [street 00:18:23] eggplant or a purple potato for that matter, but you can't go buy those things at the grocery store at all, those heirloom tomatoes maybe a few varieties you can get, but nowhere near the array that's available, you look at seed catalogs and it does not compare to what's on the grocery store shelves. And that's a motivator for me, and it does lend itself to that beautiful space, it's investing in interest, it's investing in something that will motivate you. Also, structure [in 00:18:53] the garden, I use cattle panels and make arched trellises, that hang food over the walkways. You walk under them, it's very fairytale, and I garden in raised beds, and in the ground, so I don't feel like either one of those is really necessary to create a beautiful space, I really love both of them.
Jessica Sowards: But hanging decorations, put up all the wind chimes, and buy the funny little garden flag that makes you laugh, or may have your kids, I remember one year my kids painted a bunch of rocks and we set them on the, just around the garden on the outside, we did a thing, we still do this where we have a lot of rocks, and we have [paintings 00:19:32]. And when people come, and big river rocks, not ones that I'm going to have to [inaudible 00:19:37] my garden beds, but big river rocks. And I've people write their prayers on the rocks with their paint pens, and just go set them somewhere that I'm going to come across it while I'm working, and I can just pray over their prayers while I'm working and just different things like that. Things that are beyond just the production, because you know this as well as anybody who's gardened for very long, there are factors that are 100% outside of your control, there is no fail-proof gardening method, and it's just, it doesn't exist.
Jessica Sowards: You're going to fail, and there are going to be times that you lose the harvest, even if you are a good gardener with lots of experience that shows up, something can happen and that you lose the harvest, and so if your only motivator is the harvest, of course you are going to have very unmotivated seasons. So for me, it's about putting those beautiful things and those engaging things in, that bring the motivation when otherwise it might not be there.
Melissa K Norris: Yeah, I love that. And with the heirloom, that is so true I mean, we've been doing an all heirloom garden for, well over a decade now, but like you said, when you know that you cannot get that variety anywhere else, unless you're growing it, it is a huge motivator. And I feel the same way about tomatoes, I don't have a greenhouse, we do have a high tunnel where I raise my tomatoes, but right now in the, I'm not kidding in the corner of my living room, I have two little grow lights and I've got over 30 tomato starts under those grow lights, because if I don't start those from seed when I can't grow here because of our shorter growing season, but secondly, I can't even find those varieties as starts if I wanted to go buy tomato starts from a nursery, and not starting from seed. So, you know, I have to say there's times where I'm like, I really don't want to have, all of these dirt entries, literally where my kitchen meets my living room. If I don't have them there for eight weeks, then I'm not going to have these tomato varieties.
Melissa K Norris: And so it is a really big motivator. And so I love that you're talking about picking varieties like that. I think that's fabulous to build in your motivation, instead of just trying to find it from this external source, because it will go away and yes, like the failures in a garden, I still have failures on things every single year, and my husband and I have been growing a garden for 21 plus years, it happens, but I don't know about you but I find, and I think this is true for all of life, but even with gardening, I learned so much from the failures. So, it's not that I want them, but I'm like, at least there's a silver lining because I know I'm going to fail. And when I do, I know I'm going to learn a really valuable lesson.
Jessica Sowards: Absolutely, 100%. I tell people all the time, harvest the wisdom out of every season that you put your hand to the garden, because if you don't make it a pass fail thing, like, "Oh, I failed, it's over, I'm bad, let me internalize this and make it about who I am as a person." If you just go ahead and take that off the table on the front end, and say, "I'm going to do this, I'm going to grow as a gardener, rather than I'm just going to grow a garden and get some food, but I'm going to grow as a gardener, those failures, all of a sudden, like you said, they're valuable, those are valuable lessons that are going to grow you as a gardener, just as much if not more in some cases than success does. And so harvesting that and moving forward, it, you just kind of insulate yourself where you just you're expecting it. You make room for it, you make the most of it, and then it makes you even more determined to move forward rather than discouraged.
Melissa K Norris: Yes. And I want to do, because I mentioned my tomato starts in greenhouse and that I grow in a high tunnel, so I don't use any type of heat source. And I know you have a high tunnel, but you guys also have a greenhouse. And I would love to talk a little bit about greenhouse growing just because I don't have experience in it, and I always like to learn from my guests, like the show is definitely for my listeners but it's also my learning module as well. So with the greenhouse, now I'm pretty sure, you can obviously correct me if I'm wrong, but you guys did you build your greenhouse, or did you guys order it as a kit?
Jessica Sowards: We built it. My husband is very handy, and he actually collected old windows and he didn't really make a plan for it, he just was winging it and it's amazing because he can do stuff like that, but it's a 10 by 12. And it's primarily made of reclaimed materials almost entirely except for the roof panels, it has those plastic greenhouse roof panels, and he just built it over the course of about a month and a half working on it, there and there. And it's got a gravel floor, now I live in Arkansas and so it's hot. And so my greenhouse is primarily unheated, it's not necessary to heat it, because it gets warm enough and sunny enough in the days and with adding the gravel floor, which retains a lot of heat and the slope of the roof and all that stuff, it actually stays pretty warm in there.
Jessica Sowards: When we had our record breaking cold this winter, it was colder than it had been in it like a couple hundred years. And it was like negative five outside Fahrenheit, negative 20 Celsius. And in my greenhouse it was like 32 degrees.
Melissa K Norris: Wow.
Jessica Sowards: In the greenhouse. Yeah. And that was no additional heat, but just because it had been a sunny day. So yeah, that is wild. It's just it does really well, but I do keep a heater out there, especially if it's full of frost tender things, right now my tomato, I sowed a lot of seeds, because I do have the greenhouse, but tomatoes, and eggplants, and peppers, and they're all waiting to be transplanted right now, there'll be put in next week. And I keep a heater out there. So if we do get like a freak late frost, that's going to be cold enough that there's a little bit of risk. I want to keep that on and make sure that it's going to be safe.
Melissa K Norris: Yeah. So, do you just do, is it something where you're running an extension cord for the heater, or do you actually have a power source wired into the greenhouse?
Jessica Sowards: Yeah, he ran power down there, and then we just have a faucet in it so that I can water things in it. But yes we do have power down there, and I run a fan all the time to keep my starts from being leggy and weak, and then I have my heater out there, and that's most of it, I've got some pretty little lights that are hanging out there. Got to keep it inspired. But, it's really great, it extends the season, it gives space, it gives me my little refuge place, it helps me during those off seasons, because I can grow lettuce greens, and stuff like that in the greenhouse all winter. Because I'm able to keep it warm enough in there just with the sunlight, which is really nice, it is my favorite thing to do in the winter is just sit in my greenhouse [puttering over seeds 00:26:30].
Melissa K Norris: Yes. Every gardener, seed catalogs, they're like our eye candy, right?
Jessica Sowards: Yes.
Melissa K Norris: I can honestly really care less about shoes, I don't know if you love fashion magazines please don't be offended by this, I don't have fashion magazines, I could care less, but man bring me the seed catalogs, and I just will sit and drool for hours just thumbing through them daydreaming. So I sure get you over the seed part. So, with the gravel floor, which I love that that retains heat, but that would, I'm assuming primarily your greenhouse like you said, is mainly then for just seed starting, or growing things in small containers.
Jessica Sowards: Yes.
Melissa K Norris: Not having beds that are growing year round [inside it 00:27:13].
Jessica Sowards: Yeah. I don't grow year round in it. It gets so hot in there, because Arkansas is hot, and in the summer I have to keep the door open to the greenhouse, but even still it's pretty common with the door open for it to be 130 degrees in there because it's too hot now, there are products that you can use where you can paint them on like shade cloths and stuff like that, to bring greenhouses down to usability in the south in the summer. But I have a high tunnel and so usually in the summer, the greenhouse is at a commission, about September, late September when it starts cooling off a little bit, I'll go ahead and start using it again, and I'll get some seeds started in there. I use soil bags, just a bag of potting soil and lay it on its side, and cut the top of it off. Just make a big opening on the top, and I'll plant salad greens in those soil bags, poke holes in the bottom of them obviously on the underside, and I'll set those on the greenhouse shelves and just sow the salad greens directly into the soil bag.
Jessica Sowards: And we harvest fresh salad out of the greenhouse all winter that way, and of course it's out of the rain and the elements, so they stay really clean, and so you just have to come in and water them right there in the bags, which is, I keep that going all winter. And then I usually about mid December, I go in and start a bunch of brassicas to plant out into the high tunnel around February, and then in February is when I start all of my warm weather stuff in the greenhouse.
Melissa K Norris: Okay. Well, and that makes perfect sense, and I think one of the things that I hear from you, and it is really key is to work with what your weather and environment does.
Jessica Sowards: Yes.
Melissa K Norris: Because honestly there would be no point for you trying to grow in your greenhouse during the summer because your outdoor environment is conducive, there's no need for it. So why make that extra work of trying to shade things in, and create this false environment when the outdoor environment is just fine? So yeah, and I love the idea of the gravel floor though, because, so my brain is already going am like, "If I can have a little seed potting greenhouse with the gravel floor like that, even making it smaller, just so I didn't have to start all of the starts in the living room." But I'm like, "Ooh, I could do double." Yeah, doing [inaudible 00:29:34]. So, I'm actually excited about that, I'm going to have to start planning a little [bag of that 00:29:39] from zero.
Jessica Sowards: It's granite fringe drain gravel is what we use on the floor of, we've two greenhouses one we don't really use a lot anymore, but granite fringe strain gravel, and it holds so much heat. And it's also nice because it doesn't get muddy in there and you can water, and it just runs down through the gravel which is nice.
Melissa K Norris: Yeah. I'm really intrigued by that and excited to go do some investigating, and offer my husband a couple of examples to see if he's like, "Yeah, we can do that." Or he's like, "No, you'll have to wait." I think that, for every gardener and [inaudible 00:30:11], there's always a mile long list of the [crosstalk 00:30:15] those priorities. But yeah, I love that. So then, with having the heat source, do you have it set with, are you the timer-.
Jessica Sowards: I am.
Melissa K Norris: In the temperatures are so you just go and turn it on when it, you obviously you can tell, 'Oh, it's going to be cold enough, we need to turn it on." It's not like any type of automatic system that kicks on if a certain temperature fits or something?
Jessica Sowards: You can get those kinds of thermostats and temperatures systems. But I am, I guess, just a glutton for punishment. I don't know why I don't do things easier sometimes, because I right now, I'm constantly checking the forecast. I guess that's the gardener's thing, I checked the forecast probably five times a day throughout this time of year especially. But yeah, I just do it, I vent it when I need to, and turn it on and turn it off and I'm down there so much anyway, that I don't ever feel bothered by it, but you could automate it if you wanted to.
Melissa K Norris: Okay. And then curious about, and probably because you're not growing, it's mainly for starts. And then in the winter, it's the lettuce, which doesn't have as much, but any type of humidity control that needs to be addressed, or that just stays pretty good with the watering system that when you're watering.
Jessica Sowards: That probably be more of an issue if you lived in a really dry place. The gravel helps with that because when you're watering basically that ground underneath, because it's just gravel on top of, there's a weed barrier, but then soil underneath there. And so that's going to maintain moisture, and that does lend to the humidity in there, you can definitely feel how humid it is after you've watered. And it stays down in that gravel, which is nice, that helps. But I live in an extremely humid place, year round it stays pretty humid, and I don't have to worry very much about that. So I haven't done very many precautions to make sure that's right. I have noticed when I start seeds in my house, in our basement where we run a dehumidifier, I struggle a lot more with seeds getting caught in their seed caps, and different things like that, and that never happens outside cause it is humid enough.
Melissa K Norris: Okay. Awesome. Well I am just thrilled to be able to sit and chat with you, and one of the features that we normally have on the podcast at the end is where I will do a verse of the week and I was actually really excited to have you on because I, with being a Christian and I've shared this with my listeners, there'll be very familiar with this, is just authentically a part of who I am. And so I just naturally find things coming out and sharing that, without it being something that I am, I'm not trying to force any but you can't force anybody. You can not force your relationship or your beliefs on anybody else, it has to be something that someone comes to on their own, if they ever choose to do so. But the reason I share all of that is because one, I would love for you to do our feature of the verse of the week, which is how we round out and wrap up every episode.
Melissa K Norris: But, you were talking about the prayer rocks and how your garden is a testament, and something that you're giving back as a thing of worship actually to the Lord, if you are a bit of a Christian belief in believing God and giving that back to Jesus, and I have found, even when I say I don't necessarily like to do all of the work in the garden, and there are times when I'm like, "Okay, I'm ready to give up." But then you go out and do it anyways, is I spend a lot of time reflecting and praying, especially when I'm weeding. And I'm always trying new methods on weed control, and make my weeding time less, when there's always still weeding that has to be done regardless. And I have always found that I tend to weed out issues within my prayer for God brings areas that need to be weeded in my life to mind when I'm physically weeding. And I feel that there is a spiritual element to the garden, regardless of your religious beliefs, and I think a lot of people feel that too, even if they don't particularly share our same, belief system, but there's something about being out in the garden that is a spiritual or can be a spiritual experience.
Melissa K Norris: And I think that's oftentimes something that we don't even think of when we're thinking of the benefits of having a garden, so I'm glad that we highlighted that, but I would also love to open the door. And have you share a verse of the week, or anything that the Lord just put on your heart that you would like to share with others.
Jessica Sowards: Yeah, absolutely. I'm so glad to get to share this, as soon as you asked me when we were getting ready to start the podcast, it was immediate this came to mind because we were just discussing this. I was with my children, and we were discussing Philippians 4:6 and 7, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your heart and minds through Christ Jesus." And I was talking about this with my kids and I was explaining to them that this scripture doesn't say, make your requests known to God and immediately he will do it, and that will give you really from your anxiety. It is genuinely just the telling of our requests to him, and in that knowing that the greatness of his love for us, and the presence that he has in our everyday life, and the fact that he is a father that cares enough to even hear our requests and our anxiety, that it's that, that actually eases the anxiety.
Jessica Sowards: And as the anxiety is eased, we are then positioned in our hearts to receive what he would have for us, as the answers of those prayers. Because sometimes we ask for things from the Lord and the answer is not right away darling, it's wait three years. Sometimes we-.
Melissa K Norris: Yeah.
Jessica Sowards: You know what I mean? And it's not the fulfillment of our requests that brings us peace, It's the fact that he's listening to them. And I was explaining this to my children, just a little while ago, we're in such a season of transition right now. We're getting ready to move to a larger farm property. And we're changing a lot of things, and we are going to start from scratch, and it's a leap of faith in all the best ways, but it is costly. And I've really exercised the knowledge of this scripture, in this season of knowing that anxiety pops up occasionally, it tries to get a foothold in our heart, because we can't see the outcome. But it's not the outcome that eases anxiety, it's the knowledge that he is with us during the process, and as the outcome comes, it will come with praise, and it will come with celebration, and we'll be so thankful when the outcome happens. But in the meantime, we're anxious for nothing because he's here with us and listening to the things we have to say.
Melissa K Norris: Yes. And I think that's so needed, not even just in these times, but all the time. So thank you so much for sharing that. And two, I know we've talked a lot about your YouTube channel, because that's where I came across through you, and I've gotten to know you via that mode, but you also have your fabulous new book. And so if there's, for people who want to dive further in and see a lot of what we've been talking about, and that type of thing, is it your YouTube channel or where's the best place for people to really connect with you?
Jessica Sowards: Yeah, so we have our YouTube channel it's called Roots and Refuge Farm. I'm actually not a great, I don't have all the social media platforms, I'm not one of those, I really don't, I'm really not great at social media, but I have YouTube and I have Instagram, also same name, Roots, and Refuge Farm. And we just share our daily life and both of those things, we do a lot of how to's, a lot of inspiration, and just it's that seat at the table that we so want to offer to people.
Jessica Sowards: And then I did just release my first book. It's called The First-Time Gardener: Growing Vegetables by Jessica Sowards. And it is just that, I mean it is a guide for the first time gardener, it's that encouragement a little pep talk cheerleader in your corner, and again, it's just like, "Hey, let's sit down together over a cup of coffee and let's talk gardening." And of course there's a lot of information, and charts, and teaching, and foundational stuff, but also the encouragement that I find is just genuinely required to make the commitment to grow as a gardener.
Melissa K Norris: Awesome. Guys, we'll also have in the show notes in the blog post that accompanies in this episode, I'll have links to Jess's book, and her Instagram and YouTube too, but you're obviously more than welcome to search if you're already on your phone, and want to go and jump on there and follow her there. Thank you so much for coming on today.
Melissa K Norris: And I actually have one last request and it's totally for me, but I'm super curious. Are you trying any new really cool varieties, or any new things in the garden this year that you're just super stoked about? And if not anything new, your absolute favorite, "Oh my gosh, if you guys just grow this one thing or do this one thing, this is it."
Jessica Sowards: Oh, well the new thing that I'm doing, is a lot of determinant tomatoes. I'm not growing [inaudible 00:39:14] any of those. And I'm doing a lot of those in the high tunnel and there's one it's called, sunrise, and it's a yellow with a pink splash, and I'm just really excited about that one, I'm excited to see it and the plants are already so stocky and cute and different than the rest of them. And some I'm really anticipating that. So, I think that would probably be, and then of course the Paul Robeson, I think is probably one of my favorite tomatoes, if you've never grown that one, that is a great tomato, and I'm already anticipating my first date with Paul and the garden this summer.
Melissa K Norris: Okay. I love this. I have to ask, because I tend to be a gardener, I get my favorite and I'm stuck there, I am at, "Nope, I've found it." But I'm trying to make myself branch out and try new things, or to grow something new every year. This is actually believe it or not. I sounds silly saying this, but this is the first year I've ever grown celery. I have never grown celery before. I don't know why it's not difficult, I've just never grown celery before. So, this is my new year to grow celery, but I'm also trying and probably a lot of people are gonna laugh cause it's not like anything exotic, but I am branching out on my paste tomatoes cause I do a [inaudible 00:40:22] and I normally grow San Marzano Linguine is my main Italian heirloom paste tomato, but I'm trying the Amish paste this year, just to see and evaluate how I like it.
Melissa K Norris: So with the Paul Tomato, because I'm not familiar with that one at all. Is it just like a table eating? Is it a paste? Is it a cherry?
Jessica Sowards: Paul Robeson, it's like a purple, greenish dark shouldered, medium, probably eight to 10 ounce on average. I've had some get a little bit bigger than that. So, typically like a table tomato, but I have roasted it and canned them roasted before, and just let some of the liquid run off in the oven and then you have a little more to can without the juices, but it's so good, it's that dark purple real dusky smoky flavor, real mommy ranch. It's very good tomato. I like it.
Melissa K Norris: Okay. I'm taking notes, I'm gonna have to get some seed with that one for [next year 00:41:21] I'm just too late this year, but for next year. And where's your, is it one that's just kind of common or do you have a specific seed source that you get that one from?
Jessica Sowards: Paul Robeson's available at a lot of places, I know that [inaudible 00:41:32] has it and Hudson Valley has it. Just off the top of my head, I'm pretty sure MIgardener has it. It's pretty common.
Melissa K Norris: Okay. Awesome. Well that's one, that I'll try next year. You make it sound so delicious. [inaudible 00:41:45] And now I'm [feening 00:41:47] now for [crosstalk 00:41:49].
Jessica Sowards: Me too.
Melissa K Norris: Months away from it being on the vine, but sometimes I just will go by and brush the tomato plants. Because they're literally right next to my kitchen, I'll just run my hand over the starts and it just gives you a-.
Jessica Sowards: Smell them?
Melissa K Norris: [crosstalk 00:42:00] Yeah exactly. Okay. It's so nice to be in my gardening peeps, I don't sound weird, there's other people that understand this...
Jessica Sowards: Oh my God, I totally sniff my tomato plants and salivate so no worries, you're not alone.
Melissa K Norris: Oh my God I'm not totally weird. Well, I probably am weird, but I like to say that-.
Jessica Sowards: We're weird together.
Melissa K Norris: In the [best way 00:42:23] Awesome. Well Jess, thank you so much for coming on.
Jessica Sowards: Thank you.
Melissa K Norris: I so enjoyed our chat there and I know listeners did too. So thank you.
Jessica Sowards: Thank you.
Melissa K Norris: I hope that you enjoyed this episode as much as I did, and you're feeling like you definitely had a seat at the table with Jess and I and are inspired to incorporate some of these things into your own garden this year. And just to renew your love of gardening, if it needed to be renewed at all, you can get all of today's links and resources and we'll have photos that we referenced from today's episode at the blog post that accompanies this, grab that [@melissaknorris.com/304 00:43:06], just the number 304 because this is episode 304, @melissaknorris.com/304 for all of the links, and different resources, and things we have mentioned. I want to thank you so much for joining me for this episode, I always feel like my podcast listeners, we have a special relationship and I know it sounds odd for me to say that because at the moment, I'm just talking into a microphone, but getting your guys' feedback, reading your reviews, the emails, and the messages that you send me, and the stories that you share with me.
Melissa K Norris: I know that we are kindred spirits, and it just warms my heart to know that there are other people who have the same values, and wants, and dreams, and are even as weird as Jess and I, who will smell their tomato starts because they are so hungry for the growing of plants. So, it's a really good to have your people, and I thank you so much for being with me on this journey. And next week's episode, my friend you are in for another treat, you are really going to enjoy next week's episode. So, blessings in Mason jars until we meet, next week.
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