humble homesteading: our garden prep

Over the years, I’ve attempted gardening on several occasions.  I’ve grown things in tiny peat pots, bought from the nursery, and direct-sowed.  Varied success has resulted.  This is our third spring here at the farm.  I think we’ve finally figured out what works for us and what works in our area.

First we till and make ditches.  Luckily, our neighbors are gracious enough to loan us their machine.  We then flood each ditch and fill in low points.  I also like this done because planting is easier when it’s wet.  It’s also better to plant in moist soil.

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Now for planning.  I like to sketch up the plan so I know what and where I’ll plant.

Planting time comes next.  After each row is planted I flood the ditch again.  Notice we plant in the ditch- not the hill.  This give the plant a great soaking.  The soil stays moist for 3-5 days (depending on the weather), and it catches all the rain during monsoon season.  We stomp the hills down to make a sturdy walking path.

We have a few garden boxes set up.  I’m making one of them the permanent strawberry patch.  Onions are in one, and the other will have pole beans soon.

We spent two eight-hour days in the garden this weekend.  I’m so glad it’s almost fully planted.

I filled the rows with seeds.  Every child had some part in the prep and planting.  Little ones love dropping seeds into the holes.  Nobody likes pulling weeds.  Me either!  IMG_1567IMG_1587IMG_1589IMG_1594

We have found through trial and error that I can’t grow peppers or tomatoes from seed too well.  I’m working on it.  For this year we decided to buy plants from the nursery.  I buy bulbs for onions and garlic.  Everything else is seed sown directly into the ground.  I’m worried about the carrots coming up.  I had no success last year.  Any tips for carrots?

Here’s our list of what’s in the ground right now:

pickling cucumbers, corn, tomatoes (variety), peppers (sweet and hot variety), bush beans, watermelon, cantaloupe, carrots, romaine lettuce, blue dwarf kale, zucchini, spaghetti squash, onions (red and yellow), garlic, asparagus, herbs (variety), pie pumpkins, and eggplant.

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By the end of next week I hope to add:

potatoes, blueberry bushes, raspberries, black berries, pomegranates, strawberries, pole beans.

What are you growing?  How do you adjust for your climate?

 

 

 

humble homesteading: soapmaking

IMG_1296 IMG_1298I’m no expert when it comes to soapmaking.  I made four batches a year and a half ago.  Only two turned out well.  That gave us 30 bars of soap.  I noticed a couple of weeks ago that we only had 5 bars left.  So, this week brought on my annual soapmaking frenzy.

If you want to learn all I know about soapmaking, check out Soap Queen TV and Bramble Berry for supplies.

Four things I’ve learned are non-negotiable with making cold-process soap.

One- You must have a scale.  Must.  Measuring volume is way off.  This is why I had 50% success last time.

Two- Patience.  Lots of it.  It took me an hour to stir each batch.  Best done while listening to Pandora.

Three- Thermometers and Lye Calculators are your friend.  Exact temp are imperative. So are Lye amounts. This can make or break it.

Four- Keep the kids away.  Naptime, bedtime are great times to make soap.  It can be dangerous.  If you’re hollering at kids the whole time, the fun is lost for you.

I am so pleased with the success of these 3 batches I made this week.  One didn’t turn out.  That compelled me to finally get a scale.  This is the third scale I’ve bought in four years.  I’m hiding it from children’s reach this time.

All was not lost though.  I grated it up.  I’ll be using it for laundry soap.

Have you ever made soap?  What are your favorite resources and recipes?  I used the “Lots of Lather” recipe from Bramble Berry.

humble homesteading: catching up

IMG_1244 IMG_1249 IMG_1238 IMG_1234 IMG_1232 IMG_1226 IMG_1225 IMG_1219We’ve all been scurrying around lately.  Though we’ve enjoyed winter weather in the 70s, the last load of firewood needed cutting and stacking.  Certainly, the sound of a chainsaw will forever remind me of my cousin.  That builds up emotions.  I found myself in the perfect place for emotional outlet.  Pulling weeds.  Still.

The toddlers “helped” with this.  Half of the onions are planted, along with a bit of garlic.  Most of a second garden bed has been freed of the entangled, cursed grasses.  My hands are blistered, but by golly, we shall have onions and garlic.

We enjoyed some gluten-free pumpkin spice muffins.  Pumpkin from the garden taste better, do they not?  I have four more gallons to use before the next planting begins.  Perhaps we don’t need ten plants this year.

Our ladies (goats) are swelling.  There is just nothing more pleasing to me than assisting in the births.  It’s so precious.  It’s also a gooey mess, but in a wonderful way.  We are all excited to have milk again.  Last year’s season was cut short.  This year we plan on expanding to cheeses and such.

The farm is rearing and ready.  I can’t believe it’s still Winter though.  Will it ever get cold here?  This knitting mama gets robbed of wearing woolins far too much.

How’s your Winter?

humble homesteading: plans and dreams

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Oh, Winter.  The time here on the farm to make plans for the rest of the year.  We have some grand plans for this year.  Gathering knowledge these past (almost) two years has been beneficial.  We have wanted to jump into everything, but thought it better to bide our time.  We finally have a way to get a beef cow.  We are preparing for honey bees.  The pasture has a plan for expansion for more goats.  The chickens are gearing up for their very own yard.  And (Lord help us) we’re making calls to buy pigs again. Many talks have happened here.  The funding is seeming to come through.  Nick has side jobs one after another.

Our neighbors who have had many head of cattle in the past have offered to host one cow of ours.  This is grand news since we haven’t ventured that far due to fence mending we need to do.  Nick is as happy as a clam.  How ever happy that is.

I’ve read no less than four books cover to cover this week on beekeeping.  I stay fascinated by bees.  They are intriguing creations.  I have a feeling they will teach us all some important lessons.  I’ve made calls to local pros and really honed in on the Africanized Bee dilemma.  I am making plans on the best ways to keep them from invading our future colony.  While they really aren’t as scary as the movies dipict, there are reasons why they can be.  We will be keeping bees on our property.  That calls for extra measures of caution.  Any breed of bee can do damage to people and livestock to the point of death.  This is rare.  It can also be nearly preventable by being observant and educated Apiarists.  I don’t take this topic lightly.

Nick has spent the better part of a particularly restless night planning the expansion of our goat pen.  We want our ladies on pasture as soon as we have the funds for the materials.  We are also getting real serious about keeping another one-two girls this year.  We just never seem to have enough milk between ourselves and customers.  I really want to venture into selling goat milk products (soap, cheese ect) this season.  More milk please!

Bottom line with the chickens– I’m done with them pooping on my porch.  They’re getting a nice big yard this year.  Just last week we were late to the library because a certain tiny girl placed her special box on the porch steps while making her way to the car.  I can’t accurately describe the wailing that ensued when she discover it was covered in chicken poop.  Ahhh, the things you never think of when you start a farm from scratch.

This brings us to the pig talk.  I am semi-confident they won’t get out of their pen this year.  Semi.  We’ve learned not to make definitive statements when it comes to this topic.  The plan is do get 4-5 pigs and sell meat this year.  With all the hub-bub going on about pig illness on the East coast, we think the demand will be good for us.  I’m on the search for Heritage Breeds in our area.  Just pray.  Pigs are all they said to be in movies and books.  Except Wilber.  Wilber was a good pig.

Do you have plans and dreams?  Move forward.  These plans are subject to change depending on the provision and direction of God.  We pray and think plenty before we make plans, however we know who’s running this homestead.  We try to stay humble as we keep that in mind.

humble homesteading: preparing the garden

This week I’ve tried to prepare the garden.  I say “tried” since the duck weed and crab grass are the bane of my garden.  I refuse to use round-up or other chemicals. Sometimes I regret my conscience.  I just can’t do it!  I know it’s wrong.

I’ve raked and pulled, and felt the reality of The Curse.  Thanks Genesis for giving me a person to blame.  Yeah, I know, pathetic.  It’s just help to randomly shout, “Thanks a lot Adam and Eve,” as blisters form on your hands.  It’s therapeutic.

Somewhere in this mess are three garden beds.

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We did all we knew last year to prevent this from happening.  We mowed and weed whacked all around the beds often.  We put that black screen stuff in the bottom and sides of the beds to prevent this.  It happened anyways.  Why?!  I don’t know.  That stuff is just brutal.

Homesteading is humbling.  I never knew the depths of exhaustion I could feel from weeds.  I look forward to planting onions and garlic in a lush garden bed soon.

I’m closing my eyes and dreaming of that now.  *It’s so pretty and yummy*

Yes, that will keep me in that darn bed removing that network of intruders that are trying to make me quit.

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Here’s what it looked like when the raking was done.  Not much better huh?  Now I’ll be soaking the weeds a few more times to loosen the roots.  This is the best tip for digging holes and pulling weeds.  Soak the junk out of it!

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What are you planning for your garden?  Lets dream about weeds disappearing together, shall we?

you’re votes count here!

Thank you, thank you for each vote!  The winning category is; homesteading adventures and tips.

This weekly segment will be “Humble Homesteading”.  It will feature what we’re up to, planning, and reading in regards to farming.  I will also post linked information and tips. I’m excited to share regularly on this topic.

Check back tomorrow for the first post in this segment.

Thanks for voting.  Thanks for reading.  You are a great bunch of people.