Posts Tagged With: Garden

What We’ve Been Up To…

Sorry for the lack of posts lately.  We’ve been up to a lot.  We spent some time pulling weeds, trimming hedges, cleaning up the flower beds and mowing this weekend too, but I didn’t get a picture.  This is very sad, because it was the first time Rick used the new push mower!   Other garden news – the sunflowers and okra I planted are up and should make a nice screen soon.  But between all the projects, I’ve been pretty exhausted and have had weird hip-nerve-fire-stabbing pain going on my right side.  Because of that, I’ve been spending the boys’ nap time (my usual blog writing time) napping myself.  38 weeks pregnant and counting.  Here are some pictures of what we’ve been up to over the last couple weeks.  As always, click to view larger.

The tree stump came out:

 

The garden is growing:

 

The rest of the basement got “finished”:

The nursery got a few more touches:

 

 

Baby’s ETA is any time now.  I was 12 days early with E, and although I know I can’t count on a repeat of that goodness, I can still hope.  You can bet there will be pictures.  ;)

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Categories: DIY, Garden, Hugelkultur, Simple Living | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Independence Day Independence Update

It’s been a while since I did an update on our Independence Days project.  Over the last few weeks we’ve done a lot.  But mainly I made up for a bit of garden neglect this weekend.  We pulled lots of weeds.  Lots and lots of weeds.

Rick has been working hard over the last few weeks at digging out the tree stump.  It’s such a big project, but this weekend he got through the last of the big roots and even the tap roots underneath.  He moved it a bit with our 4Runner, but we still need to get the trunk hauled before we can really move the stump anywhere.

I’ve been consumed with baby things lately as I realized last week while finishing up the nursery that we had NO baby clothes.  I mean none.  We thought we were done after Emmett, and since the house is small, we didn’t keep anything around.  Whatever I didn’t sell I donated.  So I did a lot of shopping this weekend.  But it was fun.  Rick and I went together, and I realized that it was the first time that we actually bought baby clothes together.  :) And now, the baby will have something to wear when he or she gets here.

Here’s the update…

Plant something – okra, two varieties of sunflowers, and sad to admit, but beans and squash just went into the ground.  I hope we get something?

Harvest something –  eggs, lettuce, garlic scapes, peas, thinned carrots and onions, got a few (a handful) of raspberries!

Preserve something – quiches and some grilled chicken in the freezer… mainly things for after the baby comes.

Waste Not – compost, scraps to chickens, recycling.  Planned meals for 24 weeks straight, but then I missed last week, and our budget showed this.  But I have a plan going for this week, so I’m back on the wagon.  25 weeks planned this year so far.  I used some scrap wood from the garage to make a trellis for the grape vine, and I sold the gas-powered mower and set the money aside for a new push-reel mower.  It’s been raining a lot so we’ve just been watering the gardens and the lawn by hand as needed.  Also consolidated the freezers and unplugged the upright for the summer.

Want Not – Got new shoes for both boys (again!) – this time from the resale shop.  Got lots of neutral baby items this weekend second hand, and re-purposed a sturdy shelf to be the new changing table in the nursery.  Thrifted some pictures frames for the baby’s room too.

Build Community Food Systems – While my cousins were in town, our CSA started distribution.  This led to a few conversations about food – local, organic, non-GMO, etc.  I was super excited that when she got home, she went shopping and sent me an email detailing out her changes – she went for all local and/or organic produce, natural meats, organic dairy, etc….  !!  I know it’s not building MY community on this one, as they live in Tennessee, but it was really encouraging!

I hope everyone had a great Independence Day!  We celebrated by working outside and of course watching fireworks.  ;)

Categories: Food, Garden, Independence Days | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

Tree Update and My Newfound Love of Mulch!

The tree saga continues.  I had no idea when we started this project that it was going to take so long.  Of course, this spring has been unusually rainy and windy, preventing us do-it-yourselfers from safely hugging branches as we cut the tree down.  But I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

A couple weeks ago we had a friend come help us get some of the higher up branches of the tree.  We were so grateful for Chris’ help.  He is a rock climber and used to work cutting down trees in the forest, so he came prepared with ropes and a super-light chain saw.  He cut down nearly all the top branches for us and helped Rick navigate them safely to the ground.  We have power lines on both the North and East sides of our yard, the neighbors garage on the South, and our own house to the West of the tree.  Not to mention the fence and the chicken coop.  It was quite a feat getting through that obstacle course.  Click the photos for best view.

   

Rick was able to get the last top branches down Memorial Day weekend on his own.  After the branches were down, I ran everything that would fit through the chipper and “finished” adding mulch to the garden.  I think I’m addicted to mulch.  It’s the first time we’ve used it and it looks so nice and defines the beds so well, and seems to be doing its job keeping weeds away (and certainly the mud!).  I’m an official mulch convert!

 

Now all we have left is the trunk and the main limbs.  They are huge, and will require a chainsaw, but thankfully they are out of range of the wires and other obstacles.  I’ve contacted a local mill to see about having the trunk milled into lumber.  We’re still trying to come up with a plan for the big limbs and branches though.  But… we’re almost done.  Almost.

Categories: DIY, Garden | Tags: , | 6 Comments

Weekend Update: Memorial Day Madness?

This past weekend, we tackled more items from the seemingly endless to-do list around here.  The weather was nice for most of the weekend and we were able to get a lot done.

Friday afternoon my mom came over to help me get a few things organized for the baby’s room and the basement spare room.  We sorted through some of our food preservation items and then I realized that using that spare room as a place to store all our outdoor gear and Rick’s tools and workbench wasn’t really working anymore.

So Saturday, the first thing we did was move his work bench, cabinets and tools out of the basement and into the garage.  Rick had surgery the previous weekend and was on weight restrictions for a week, so he, of course jumped into lifting heavy objects again the moment the restriction was up.  He’s getting a pretty cool workspace set up in there, and that made a lot more room to convert the room in the basement into something useful.

We did various projects around the homestead.  I’ve lost count, but no less than five were worked on, and some even got completed.  Some of the projects turned out good enough to warrant their own future posts.  ;)  Rick spent more time cutting down the tree and we cleaned out the chicken coop since the weather was finally cooperative.  We replanted the cukes, since none had come up and it had been about two weeks since the seeds went into the ground.  I picked so many greens for every meal this weekend, and we grilled four times in two days.

I went ahead and put shingles on the roof of the beehive.  Rick’s parents gave us some spare shingles they had up in their garage rafters, and it was enough to cover the hive.  A good thing too, since the naked plywood was not loving our rainy spring.  Then, to be honest we were wiped out.

By Sunday evening, we were both pretty tired.  Monday we did a few projects (a very few) before I looked at Rick and said that I was spent.  Rick was tired too, probably from doing too much too soon.  Did I mention I’m 8 months pregnant?  Yeah.  And Rick just had surgery?  Oh.  Right.  That’s why were were tired.

Rick put the bike rack on the 4Runner and we cleaned up all our tools.  And then we went inside, made some pad Thai and watched a movie in the basement.  I’m pretty sure we’re mad.  Maybe we’ll try to rest next weekend a bit?  Maybe.  Only eight more weeks until baby (plus or minus a couple, of course).  We’re feeling the last…erm… push, if you know what I mean.  ;)

Categories: Beekeeping, Garden | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

End of May Homestead Photo Tour

I thought I’d share what’s going on at the homestead right now.  I was going to do a video tour, but being nearly 32 weeks pregnant with a baby pushing on my lungs, every video take was nothing but me breathing heavy as I walked through the yard.  So it’s a photo tour instead.

Starting just outside our back door with the boys’ hugelkultur.  I didn’t do a close up, but the watermelon sprouts are up.  Next is the chicken yard, then the side yard along our driveway where the volunteer spinach lives, as well as the grapes, garlic and strawberries.  Next come my flower gardens that are slowly getting edibles mixed in.  And the neighbor’s garden that we’ve been helping with.  Then is our main garden and the beehive, which is to receive a new roof this weekend.  Not shown are the tiny leek and kohlrabi sprouts.  :)  Eggplant and carrots are planted too, but not up yet.  Enjoy!

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Categories: Garden, Hugelkultur, Urban Homesteading | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

Mother’s Day Big Brag

Wow!  Happy belated Mother’s Day!  Here’s my official brag about how great my family is and what a great weekend we had on the homestead.  This weekend I had requested to get the garden planted.  The plan was for me to spend Saturday with my mom and sister while Rick and the boys went with his mom to the botanic gardens, and for us to plant the garden on Friday after Rick was home from work and on Sunday.

On Friday, we planted corn, onions, and carrots with the neighbor and put in our tomatoes.  But Friday night, we got a call that our friend, Chris, had caught a swarm of bees for us, and another call that the CSA asparagus was ready to pick.

Some things just don’t wait.  So on Saturday morning, while the guys were at the botanic gardens with Grandma, my mom and sister came over here for bunch, and Chris brought us the swarm.

The bees we had last year left in the fall, we’re not sure why.  We think either the queen died or left since there were bees milling around aimlessly for a week or two before they were all gone.  There were no dead bees, just gone.  Last year’s swarm was also much smaller and our friend caught it later in the season while we were out of town.  He had installed them for us then, so this was the first time I got to experience putting bees into the hive, and Chris walked me through it.  My mom got to watch ME put the bees into the hive (and took pictures for us!).

These new bees were pretty cranky, they had been in the box for a couple days and were hungry and thirsty.  It took me three good tries to get the majority of them in the hive and get the bars on the top.  My initial trial of things, they sort of swarmed around my head and clung to the gloves I was wearing.  But they seemed to calm down significantly in a few minutes and I was able to knock the majority of the rest of them into the hive and get the bars on top without any trouble.  I was really surprised at how they clung to the box, and also how quickly they just took to the hive.

We put them in with the old comb that last year’s bees had left behind (we’re pretty certain there were no mites or diseases), and they settled down fairly quickly.  Many bees zoomed off to the water and sugar-water we had out for them, but others went to the entrance of the hive and started fanning their wings to spread the queen’s pheromones so the remaining bees in the box and the air (there were still quite a few) would come on in and start making the new hive their home.  It was really exciting and I’m sad Rick missed it again.

Then, it was back to brunch with the girls for me.  It was a really nice time (I made lavender pound cake and my sister made yummy pecan-dark chocolate scones).  When Rick and the boys got home, we headed up to the farm to pick asparagus.  It took us less than forty-five minutes to pick a good 25 pounds before we trimmed it all up.  It came out to about 14 pounds of asparagus, processed and frozen, plus some to eat fresh this week.

Sunday, for some unknown reason I woke up super early, before any of the guys rolled out of bed.  When they got up around 6:45, they gave me some sweet cards and kisses, and promised to build me a picnic table next week!  We got dressed and they took me out to Snooze (one of my favorite places) for breakfast.  Afterward, we came home and started up more planting work.

We did the boys’ hugelkultur bed first.  H planted watermelon, carrots (two kinds) and tomatoes (an heirloom red cherry and a “white” cherry that will actually be yellow).  The boys got a new real shovel and special, colored tomato cages.  My mom always said she wouldn’t be a mother without me, and I sort of feel the same about my boys, so they get treats on mother’s day too).  E ran around the hugelkultur while Rick scrambled to make barriers to keep him from trampling the seeds.

It was nap time before we knew it, and Rick and I spent the afternoon putting up asparagus (Rick did most the work), and planting out the rest of the main garden bed.  By the evening I had gotten plans for my new picnic table, an order placed for the grub hoe I’ve been lusting over, a [nearly] fully planted garden bed, four kinds of basil in my flower beds, a delicious sunburn on my shoulders, a home-made dinner with fresh asparagus, and a perfect day with my guys.  Lucky me!

I hope your Mother’s Day weekend was just as special as mine was!  What did you do?

Categories: Beekeeping, Food, Garden, Hugelkultur | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

The Hugelkultur Project

A while back, when we  decided to take on the project of cutting down our 70-foot tall (plus or minus) honey locust tree in the back yard, I began doing research on what in the world we’d do with all the wood.  As you may know, a lot of the smaller branches have become mulch for the garden.  But someone from the Take Back Urban-Homesteading(s) community on Facebook suggested to me to build a ‘hugelkultur.’  A hoogle-whater?  So, of course I Googled it.

I’ll try to save you some time.  A hugelkultur (pronounced “hoogle-culture” – I think), is basically a raised bed in which wood or other carbon-rich materials is buried.  Some people lay logs directly on the ground, use a tractor to dump a pile of dirt on it and then start planting on their new, hill-shaped bed.  (I like the info in this link).

The advantages of this method of gardening is that the wood, as it rots, acts as a sponge, making it so you don’t have to water much.  Additionally, it releases nutrients over time into the soil, making it so you don’t need to fertilize.  And, as it rots, it leaves plenty of air space in the soil, so you don’t need to till.  Basically, it is a no-maintenance, self-composting bed.  The first year or two, especially with green wood like ours, it will actually draw nitrogen from the soil in order to start decomposition.  But thereafter, it will supposedly do nothing but give back.

Sounds like a good plan to us!  So we decided to give it a try in the boys’ backyard garden bed.  We don’t have lots of spare topsoil just lying around everywhere, nor the desire to buy any, so we thought it would be a better use of what we do have to dig down into the ground and bury the wood with our own topsoil and subsoil.

We dug down a good 12-14 inches.  Then we laid in some of the branches that were too thick to go through the wood chipper.  Then we buried them.  This left us with basically an instant raised bed, as promised.  We used some of the bigger, straighter limbs from the tree to make an edging (not yet complete).  Otherwise the boys would truck that dirt all over the back yard before anything could be planted there.

After an afternoon of being (unnecessarily) compacted by a 22 month old in a Tonka truck pushed by a 4 year old.

Fortunately for us, we have plenty of nitrogen-rich compost, thanks to the chickens.  We mixed a bit of that in to compensate for the initial anticipated nitrogen loss/Tonka truck compaction.  Henry wants carrots, tomatoes and watermelon in his bed this year.  We’ll keep track and let you know how it goes!

Does anyone out there have experience with a hugelkultur?  What about deterrents for little boys and their ride-on toys?  ;)

Categories: Garden, Hugelkultur, Simple Living, Sustainability, Urban Homesteading | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

-Chipping Away at the To Do List

As you might have noticed, by my lack of blog posts last week, I have been busy around this place.  We’ve been working diligently at getting the tree in the back yard cut down, the branches chipped, and the gardens set up.  So much so that we’ve actually neglected a few other things around here.  Things like ordering a car seat for baby number three as well as our birth kit.  I’m in my third trimester now, and we have pretty much nothing set up for the baby yet.

Here’s what we have been doing though.  Rick and the neighbor, Doug, got the wood chipper working and made short work of nine of the eleven piles of branches in the yard.  The other two piles were too big to put through the chipper, so they’ll have to wait.

There’s still more of the tree to cut down, but the weather has been uncooperative (too windy) to take down the tallest parts.  Hopefully this week, before the tree leafs out!

After expressing how chicken wire works just fine to protect your flock from predators, we lost two hens to a fox.  Now to our… erm… credit?  shame?  it wasn’t a failure of the chicken wire, so much as a failure to close up the coop at night.  I confess to being a lazy chicken owner, and leaving the coop open much of the time.  The hens put themselves to bed, and Josie, our big mutt, used to really help in keeping predators away.  But this is the first spring we are without her, and I really wasn’t thinking much about it until I found a hen dead one morning last week.  She was headless and we’re pretty sure Rick scared the fox away when he was leaving for work.  Somehow, neither of us heard a commotion in the coop, but it was windy and Rick thought he had heard the kids’ tent blowing around.  Turns out it was probably a chicken scuffle.

We of course cleaned up the mess, and that evening, just around sunset, when Rick went out to close the coop, he found dead hen number two.  It had JUST happened.  The neighbor had scared the fox as they walked by.  We think that the fox might have been coming back for the first hen that it left, and since it was gone, it killed another.  Since we found this one fresh – very very fresh, Rick butchered her up (discarding the part where the fox bit her – just her back) and we made chicken and dumplings.  She was actually our oldest hen, and I don’t think any amount of stewing would have made her legs edible – think really tough chicken jerky.  But we tried at least, and her breast meat was ok, and she made tasty broth.

The good news on the chicken front is we’re pretty sure those were the two hens that were eating eggs, and the older hen really wasn’t laying much at all anymore, so the fox saved us some trouble of getting up the nerve to off them ourselves.  We’ve not had anymore broken or eaten eggs, and our egg numbers are still about what they were, since now we’re getting them all instead of racing to beat the hens.  AND the chicken wire is still doing it’s job, as long as we keep doing ours.

This weekend we spread the wood chips to mulch the garden paths.  Our neighbor watched over the fence.  I know he thinks we’re crazy for going to the effort to mulch the tree instead of just hauling it to the dump, but I’m happy it’s going to good use, and hopefully it’ll work at keeping weeds down between the beds.

Otherwise, we made a trip to the garden center to get our tomato and pepper plants.  I’m excited to try a couple varieties that we’ve not done before.  I spent some time spreading compost in my tomato bed and the plants are hardening off this week to get ready to go to the ground this weekend.  I’m chomping at t he bit to get the summer things in the ground.  Just waiting for the weather to get on board too.

So this week I plan to get a few more things outside organized, but I also am going to try to focus on a few inside projects as well.  Like laundry and getting the baby’s room emptied.  There needs to be a balance, I know. The to-do list seems never ending this spring.  But little by little we seem to be getting items crossed off.

What have you been up to?

Categories: Chickens, Food, Garden | Tags: , , , | 7 Comments

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