Showing posts with label gardening. Show all posts
Showing posts with label gardening. Show all posts

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Sunday Thoughts - November 5

Happy Sunday Everyone!

Let's see if I can keep this post more upbeat than last week's post. It shouldn't be hard since I feel like I am in a better place today.

People have this idea that preppers and homesteaders are tough and resilient people that have their lives together. I can testify otherwise. Life is messy and throws a lot of curve balls.

The weather is one of those curve balls. Winter is showing up early this year. We have been spoiled the last few years with nice weather in October and November. This year we are scrambling to get outside projects finished. The temps have not been bad enough to freeze the ground, just bad enough to make working outside unpleasant.

And daylight savings time? Bah. You have to love the fact that the government controls when our clocks should turn back and skip ahead. I would like my hour or two back of sunlight when I get home to get more stuff done. I don't need sunlight to go to work and my kids don't need it to go to school!

Today I got the garden cleaned up somewhat. I would still like to do more, but I have a feeling Rob will be needing my help to get outside projects done this week. We shall see what happens. I took up the stakes and string that I used to trellis the tomatoes this year. I pulled up more plants that I keep throwing into one long row.

Last week, when the kids cleaned out the chicken coop, they dumped the bedding in the garden. Doing this the last few years has been tremendous boost to my garden. I need to spread it out a little better, but I will be a believer in having this as a part of my garden.

I planted 44 bulbs of garlic today and staked off that area so it doesn't get accidentally tilled next spring. I wish there was more I could plant this time of year for the next year, but being in this zone and in Iowa doesn't leave much for planting in late fall.

And no, the potatoes are still not dug up. Can you tell what my least favorite harvest task is?

The boat got put away this week too. I'm a little sad about that because I really like boating. I find it very relaxing!

This week is sort of busy. Dane has 7th grade basketball practice this week. Paige has an honor choir performance on Monday and a cross country banquet on Thursday. She is also finally getting her wisdom teeth out on Wednesday. For those people who don't believe getting wisdom teeth is necessary, her surgery is. Her bottom two wisdom teeth are impacted and bone on bone making chewing and life a little difficult for her right now.

I don't have a lot planned for the week. Just get done what I can outside and be a helper to Rob. I want to list more things for sale on Facebook and eBay this week. I am trying to branch out a bit and sell some things that I wouldn't normally consider. I sold two things on Facebook Marketplace this last week that were listed five months ago! I couldn't believe it!

I also wrote a post about 20 Ideas for Raising Kids Frugally. There are a lot of tips and tricks that worked for me. Check it out!

Paladin Press will closing their doors on November 29, 2017. They are an excellent source of survival and preparedness books. Many of their books are marked down 65% and more. I placed an order for four books last week. I encourage you to check them out! (Not an affiliate, just a fan!)

What have you done this last week? What are your plans for the upcoming week?

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Sunday, October 29, 2017

Sunday Thoughts - October 29

Happy Sunday everyone!

To start, I apologize for missing last week. While I realize this weekly post is not everyone's cup of tea, it serves as a place for me to get my thoughts straight. It also helps me keep track of what I have done and not done. Let's put more emphasis on what is not done because that is how I am feeling.

Actually, let's back up a little more. I struggle to stay focused on the best of days. If I didn't know better, I would probably have the adult version of ADD. However, I am not going to pursue finding out because I already know I have a problem. I survive off of to-do lists and mini self-challenges. I keep a never-ending to-do list in a journal that I carry in my purse. I also write down anything and everything I want and need to remember. Hopefully, I remember to write it down. I also heavily use my Google calendar on my phone to remember appointments and anything that I have to do that day that I don't trust myself to remember.

Yes, I have a problem. I feel sorry for anyone who has to live with me!

Now, add anxiety and stress to my already struggling focus and I am toast. I have barely gotten anything done this last week. If I had any commitments to anyone, I remembered to do those. So I remembered to pick the last of my green tomatoes and green peppers and gave them to a friend. Rob and I sold a lot of eggs last week and I remembered to get those to the right people. I remembered to make food for the week today. We have a loaf of fresh bread for sandwiches, baked oatmeal muffins, egg muffins, and granola bars for breakfasts and lunches this week.

On a whim, I decided to steam my farm fresh eggs instead of boiling them to make hard boiled eggs. They turned out great and they peel so much easier!

We will take the victories where we can!

I need to finish putting the garden to rest and get the garlic planted. The weather has been wet and rainy with the appearance of snow. We did get our first frost. I am hoping to get a warm up in November so I can finish. I still need to dig potatoes too. The strawberries have been mulched by the pine needles nearby, but I want to get more pine needles on them. The weather was nice for a few days this last week, but I was busy at work with harvest and pretty dang tired by the time I got home.

I realize that was just an excuse. I have been feeling guilty for not getting more done at home. I admire the people who can get so much done in a day. Every time I sit down for a rest, I feel like I should be doing more. I hate feeling convicted about an area of my life, but it is better to have this happening now. If something happens where I have to be working harder, I don't want to be dealing with these feeling then.

Other than that, I have been trying to figure out ways to make more money. Yes, I know I should be content with what I make already. However, I have medical bills, dental bills, and an upcoming wisdom teeth surgery (Paige) to pay for. Nevermind, I still need to put tires on the van and replace the front tie rods. Also nevermind, Christmas and a birthday (Paige) is coming up too! Ugh. I am not good about being behind on my bills. It makes me cranky and think about money all the time. It really, really stresses me out.

Since I am not willing to practice the world's oldest profession, I have been trying to find things to sell and to flip. I have been cleaning a house for a friend once a month. I am working on taking pictures of my kids' discarded things to sell. I have been playing on Swagbucks again to earn points for Amazon cards. We have been selling eggs. Basically, however I can make a dollar, I will be trying. I can always get part-time job, but I still need to be a mama too.

So this has been me in a nutshell this last two weeks. I know a lot more has been going on, but this is what has been on my mind. I am not perfect, I will never be perfect, but I strive every day to do my best.

What have you been up to lately? What is on your mind?

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Thursday, August 17, 2017

Preserving The Bounty: How To Freeze Sweet Corn


One of my favorite ways to deal with my garden bounty is to can it. I love canning! However, when I am putting up sweet corn, I like to freeze it. Freezing sweet corn is so easy. Let me walk you through it!

How To Freeze Sweet Corn:




1.Pick and husk your sweet corn. Make sure you have as much of the silks cleaned up as possible.

I tend towards picking and freezing mine in smaller batches because of my time constraints. If you want to do a lot all at once, go for it!

2. Fill your stockpot about 2/3s full with water and set it to boil.


3. In the meantime, fill your sink or a big bowl with really cold water and add a significant amount of ice to it.


4. Once the water is boiling, you will be blanching your sweet corn. I do this with the cob still on the cob because I find it easier to deal with that way. Boil the sweet corn for three minutes and immediately put the sweet corn in the ice water to cool quickly. I leave the corn in the ice water for 1-2 minutes. You will have to do the corn in batches. Doing the corn all at once will result in unevenly cooked corn.


5. Remove the corn from the ice water and let drain on a pan or towel.

6. After you have all the sweet corn blanched, you can start cutting it off the cob. I use my biggest baking sheet pan with sides to do this. Starting at the top of the cob, I slice down the cob using a slightly serrated knife.

The aftermath plus some seedy summer squash. The chicken were grateful!

7. After I get through all the sweet corn or have the pan full, I start filling freezer bags. Sometimes I just use zippered freezer bags and sometimes I use my Food Saver. Just depends on what I have for bags. I like to put 2-3 cups in each quart size bag because that is perfect for my family. If you have a large family, you might want to put more in a quart size bag or use a gallon size bag!


8. You should label each bag with "Sweet Corn 2017" or whatever year it is when you read this! Trust me on the labeling. I used to be a lazy labeler, but that hasn't worked out so well for me!

9. Put the bagged and sealed sweet corn in the freezer. This will be delicious in the winter!

I know some people put sugar or salt in their water when they cook sweet corn. That is a personal preference and I don't personally do it. If you want to, do it. It will not negatively affect the flavor of the sweet corn.

That's it. Easy peasy! Have fun and let me know if you have tricks or tips to freezing sweet corn!

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Friday, August 4, 2017

Five Prepping Things To Accomplish In August


There is so much you can do in August! Summer is still here, the weather is mostly nice and hot, and the days are still long. People's gardens are producing like crazy and the farmers' markets are overloaded with the garden goodness. Kids are getting ready to go back to school if they haven't gone back already.

We still have plenty to do though with prepping. Prepping shouldn't ever stop. I am half way through Survivors: A Novel of the Coming Collapse by James Wesley Rawles. Talk about an eye opener! This is a fictional novel, but that shouldn't stop you from reading it. The scenarios presented in this book so far are very realistic and has made me think about a few things in a new light.

Five Prepping Things To Accomplish In August: 

1. Time to stock up on office supplies. Back to school sales are going on right now. I like to get stocked up on reams of printer paper, notebooks, pens, pencils, printer ink, and flash drives/memory cards/SD cards. This is also a great time to replace printers and/or laptops because they are marked down almost as well as on Black Friday sales. You can also find good quality backpacks for bugout bags, get home bags, and everyday carry bags.

I justify stocking up on office supplies as prepping because I will still need these things if I still have access to power and WI-FI. Most of my work can be done on a computer and I need these things to keep up with business. If the grid is down, I will be back to doing a lot on paper.

2. If you haven't learned how to can food yet, you need to learn this month. If you are starting from scratch, I have a very good blog post about what you need to start canning. Whether you planted a garden, got produce from a friend, or went to the farmers' market, now is a good time to learn. You can start with something easy like canning green beans or using Mrs. Wages packets to make salsa and pizza sauce. You do not have to start our canning anything complicated. I try to only can food that my family will eat. Even I have had some hits and misses. However, in my opinion, canning is one of the top ten skills you need to learn for homesteading and prepping.


3. Whether you are canning your own fruits and vegetables or need to buy them, this would be a good month to get stocked up on cans of fruits and vegetables. If you think you have a good supply, now would be a good time to inventory your fruits and vegetables stockpile. Take note of what needs to be eaten up and what needs replacing or replenishing. I would pay special attention to anything tomato based. I have come across a bulging can or two in the last year and eating those are a definite no-no due to botulism.

Even if you think you have a good supply of canned fruits and vegetables, I would still add more. I would try to buy these by the 12 packs if you can. Being in flats makes the canned goods easier to stack and store. Aldis is a good place to buy canned fruits and vegetables by the flat or case if you cannot can your own.

4. Now is also a good time to get your important documents and pictures onto a flash drive. This flash drive may save you a good deal of headache and time when you lose those important documents or insurance cards. I would scan them into the computer and save them to the flash drive. If you have this done, you may want to update the information if you need to.You may want to do this twice and keep one on you and one in the safe. I would also take pictures of your vehicles, license plates, recreational vehicles and plates, VIN numbers from those things, and upload them to the flash drive. You never know what you may need to report to the insurance company and have replaced. I would also do this for anything valuable in your home. You can also take a video of each room and upload it to the flash drive also.


Do not forget about your kids' valuable information. If they have state provided IDs or driver's licenses, get those uploaded. Our school sends us a Student ID card with their school picture on it and I would also scan that on to the flash drive. Any birth certificates, social security cards, life insurance policies, passports, and even important medical documents should be on this flash drive.

5. Time to check your everyday carry. Do you have an everyday carry? This is what you carry in your pockets and purse. These are the things that you will need if there is an emergency or you may need to defend yourself in some way. These are the things you cannot and should not live without. I keep a lot of things in my everyday carry, but I noticed the other day that my everyday carry bag needs updating and possibly some rethinking about what I want to carry. You should do this every so often just to keep what you have on hand fresh in your mind. While you are at it, if you carry an everyday carry bag, clean it up and organize it too.

Some additional things to do in August:
1. Check your planting zone. If you can, plant some more things in your garden. We have a second planting of peas right now and I hope to add beets and carrots to the garden soon. If you use hoop houses or cold frames, you can plant more and really extend the life of your garden. 
2. Now is a good time to order strawberries, blueberries, and garlic to plant in the fall. When they come in, plant them right away and water often and well. You will have a great crop of strawberries and garlic next summer.

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Saturday, July 22, 2017

10 Reasons You Should Be Gardening!


One of the most important skills to learn is gardening. The ability to grow your own food and maintain your own sustainability is a key point in homesteading and prepping. While you may not be able to produce all your own food, you have the capability to produce a lot of it. You can also garden just for pleasure. You can also garden for your long term food storage needs by canning, freezing, and drying your produce.

There are many ways to garden. No matter what method of gardening you choose, the results are the same. With a little hard work, weed control, and commitment, you will have produced your own food and gained a skill that, sadly, most people do not have.

10 Reasons You Should Be Gardening:

1. You produce your own food! This is the best thing about gardening. You can walk out to your garden and pick what you want to eat with your supper or as your supper. Eating what you produce is a great feeling. Your hard work produced food to provide for you, your family, and possibly neighbors and friends!

2. Gardening can be therapeutic. When you are feeling a little down, tending to the plants and watching things grow can lift your spirits. When you are feeling a bit frustrated or angry, pulling weeds can be a great outlet. If you are feeling pretty happy, the garden can keep lifting your spirits.

3. Gardening can decrease stress levels. See number #2. However, pulling weeds can be the best therapy and keep you from possibly hurting someone other than the weeds. And trust me, the weeds can handle it!

4. It's a skill that needs to be learned and passed on. Many people do not know how to garden. They will remember that their parents or grandparents gardened, but they had no interest themselves in learning. We need to be teaching and encouraging the next generation to be growing their own in some way or form. Whether it is growing food in containers on an apartment balcony, a community lot, raised beds, or in the ground, gardening skills need to be taught and passed on.


5. You eat healthier. There isn't many doctors, nutritionists, or diet gurus who will tell you not to eat your vegetables and fruits. Adding vegetables and fruits that are homegrown to your meals will help you be healthier and feel better too.

6. You will lose weight and burn calories pulling weeds and tending plants. Gardening has been proven to burn calories and even help lose weight with the exercise you get tending the garden.


7. Family and couples can work together. My kids are often out in the garden working with me. This year they did a lot of planting of seeds, onions, and potatoes. We worked on planting in straight rows, seed spacing, and identifying plants. They help with weeding and harvesting. They also love to eat what comes out of the garden. Watering the garden has become a couples activity with Rob doing a lot of the watering including setting the sprinkler and coming up with new watering set-ups. You can involve your kids and your spouse if you want to. (I also understand wanting some "alone" time in the garden too!)

8. You can have a chemical free, organic garden. We try very hard to not have chemicals in the garden. If you want a chemical free, organic, non-GMO garden, you can have that. You get to control what is planted, what is sprayed, how to control the pests, and other inputs. Basically, it is yours to do with how you want!

9. You can save money at the grocery store. Vegetables and fruits rarely taste or look as good as the ones I grow. Nothing beats a homegrown tomato! Eating fresh vegetables from the garden and preserving the extra bounty will save you a fair amount of money on your grocery bill in the summer and the winter.

Learning a new way to stake tomatoes this year

10. You can experiment and learn new things while gardening. You will learn when you planted way too much zucchini and even your neighbors hide from you to avoid getting one! You will learn that you should only plant vegetables your family will eat and you will freeze/can. You will learn to try something new every year and see how it does. You can experiment with different types of tomatoes, peppers, and squashes. The garden is one big science experiment sometimes and, even though you might depend on what you produce, you can always try new things and change what you want to do.


Gardening is a skill you should be learning. It has many benefits and perks as you can read. I would encourage everyone to do it!

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Friday, April 28, 2017

Monthly Update From The Homestead - April Edition


How has your April been for you? Fairly cool and rainy with rare times of sunny and warm? That is what we had, have, and are currently experiencing. They are talking some snow on Sunday at the time of this writing. What the ?!?!?!

I am ready for May and much warmer temperatures to come. I want to get my garden planted and put some pretty flowers in the planters. I want to sit outside with a cold drink and enjoy the evenings on the porch. However, Mother Nature needs to get over herself and soon.

Speaking of the garden, what have you planted or are planting? As of right now, I have nothing planted. The ground temperatures have been a little chilly for me to be comfortable planting much. Last month I said I wanted to get the potatoes planted, but I am glad I didn't. I have a feeling we would be dealing with them rotting in the ground due to all the rain we have had. I have had that happen a few years and that doesn't sit well with me. I hate wasting that effort.

I also did not get the tomatoes or peppers started. This month was pretty busy with some illness and has been slipping right past me. I have a feeling I wouldn't have had a good grow rate anyway unless I purchased artificial lighting.

I do know what I am planting in the garden this year though: tomatoes, bell peppers, anaheim peppers, potatoes, onions, shallots, garlic (may wait until fall?), green beans, peas, zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower, and possibly carrots. I might add to that list, but those are the main things being planted. I also hope to transplant the strawberries soon and add 50 more strawberry plants. We want a good size patch of those.

I am learning a few new gardening things. Wherever I plant onions, I will need to plan on that being a two year spot. All the onions that did not come up last summer are coming up now. I do enjoy having green onions at my disposal. I also learned that some kale varieties are biennial and I could get seed this year. Since I didn't pull all the plants last year, I have kale already growing in my garden this Spring.

The rhubarb is up and ready for its first picking. I will be making a cake and a batch of jam out of this first picking. I can't wait! Our jam coffers are starting to run a little low.

I hope to order and pick up the new chicks in the next week or two. We have decided on 25 layers and 25 meat birds. The coop hasn't been built yet, but Rob has put in some very hard work prepping the cement pad that the coop will be built on. We have decided how we are building it and how the inside will look. It will be nothing fancy, but will be quite serviceable.

I really would like to get some ducks and a few turkeys too. Somehow, I am not sure that will happen this year. I really want to grow more of our own meat, but I am learning that baby steps are a good thing. Meat birds this year and maybe more next year? I wouldn't mind a couple of pigs either!

Otherwise, I have been doing the same things as I have been all winter. Fixing what I can, decluttering and selling what I can, and getting ready for whatever comes. Selling books and other things has been really slow lately. Spring is not usually a good selling time for me, but I usually have hope it will be better next month.

We did do our first mowing of the year. This is not my favorite job, but the grass needed to be leveled off. We also picked up a lot of branches and sticks this year. The winter was not kind to our trees. A good deal of them need to be cut down and hauled away. Of course, I will try to plant new ones or let a sucker continue to grow in its place. The yard clean up seems to be more a job every year.

What have you been up to this April? I hope it was more productive than mine!

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Monday, February 20, 2017

20 Things You Can Do On Your Spring Homestead


Spring! The promise of hope. The start of the growing season. The warmer temperatures and fickle weather. The possibilities of what can be done!

I love Spring! Winter is over except for the possibility of a late snowstorm. Summer is coming. You can be outside most of the time without freezing your gluteus maximus. Which is a good thing because there is so much to do in the Spring on a homestead!

20 Things You Can Do On Your Spring Homestead:

1. Start seeds inside. Check out your planting zone, but now is a good time to start onions, tomatoes, peppers, and other things you might buy as plants at the store.

2. As soon as your planting zone allows, plant seeds in your garden. You can plant radishes and other cold hardy vegetables and greens as soon as the frost is out of the ground. Most of them will survive a late frost also.

3. Fix fences. Winter can be harsh on your fences. While the ground is fairly soft (not soggy), now is good time to put new stakes in the ground and pull up old ones.

4. Fix damage to outside buildings. Did you have a roof leak on the coop? Now is a good time to address it. Did the snow and rain damage the sides of the building? Now is also a good time to address that.

5. Get new chicks! Spring is a great time to start a new flock or add to the current one. Anyway you look at it, new chicks are cute and should be on a homestead!

6. While you are getting chicks, some new turkey poults, goslings, and ducklings would be good too. If you are looking for some different forms of protein in the form of eggs and meat, all of these are great. If you really want to and have the room and shelter for them, goats, lambs, calves and piglets are all great additions to the homestead too!

7. Build a new raised garden bed or make a new garden. If you can expand, now would be a good time to do.

8. Clean up the yard. Get the rocks out of the lawn so you don't ruin the lawn mower or break a window. Clean up the trash that has blown over from the neighbors.

9. Pick up the sticks and branches that fell over the winter. At my house, this gets it own number on the list. We have a lot of trees and we seems to lose a lot of branches over the winter.

10. Cut down the dead trees. Cutting down the trees now will give the wood time to cure if you are using a wood stove. Otherwise, make a little money on the side selling firewood.

11. Plant new trees. I am a big believer in planting trees. We need them for the environment. They provide a great wind break and shade from the sun. If you plant fruit or nut trees, you can add to your food resources.

12. Clean out the buildings. The garage, the coops, the barn, all of it. They all need a good Spring cleaning after winter and being closed up.

13. Build a rabbit hutch and start raising rabbits. Rabbits are a great form of protein and good eating. If you end up with more rabbits than you know what to do with, start selling them to make a little income on the side.

14. Spring clean the house. A good homestead works best when the house is clean, tidy, and organized. Get everyone involved and give the house a good cleaning including washing the windows and the curtains.

15. Clean the outside of the house and buildings. A good cleaning of the buildings keep the place looking neat and tidy. It also keeps the mold off the house, the dirt from building up in the crevices, and problems from happening like leaks and corrison. Don't forget to clean the gutters too!

16. Take care of the clothesline. Nothing smells better than fresh laundry and the money saved from doing it. Now is a good time to tighten up the lines, replace any lines that have cracked or rusted, and clean them. I just use a wet rag over my hand and run my hand down each line 3-4 times. You would be surprised how dirty they are!

17. If you don't have any, now is a good time to set up a rainwater catchment system. It is as easy as setting a screened barrel with a spout under a downspout from a gutter to catch the water. You will save money not having to run your well or pay for the extra water. You will also have water on hand for livestock or watering plants if you lose power.

18. Want chicks, but don't have a coop? Build a chicken coop! There are some specific things they need like an enclosed area, nesting boxes and a roost, but they don't need a lot of room. You can make one fairly cheap with reclaimed materials too.

19. If you haven't already done this, plan your garden. What do you want to plant? What worked last year? What would you like to preserve and can? What do you actually like to eat? Last year, I planted 22 tomato plants and I am glad I did. I had a really decent harvest with plenty to can and to eat. This year, I want to plant at least that many, but I need a better staking system. I want to plant more peppers too. I only had four plants out of sixteen produce. I need to plant them further away from the tomatoes that tried to suffocate them. You need to consider things like that when planning your garden.

20. Start some beehives. Spring is a good time to get some beehives started. With bees being endangered, more people need to do their part to start raising and homing them. You can purchase a beehive kit from Amazon to get started. To get bees, talk to local beekeepers or your local extension office about where to purchase them. In addition to getting bees, plant some bee loving plants and bushes around the homestead to keep them fed!

What do you want to do on your homestead this Spring?

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Monday, October 24, 2016

Monday Monthly Update From The Homestead - October Edition


Since we are close to the end of October, I thought I would update y'all on what we have been doing this last month. There has been a lot of activity and projects getting done around the place!

But first, some really sad news. The chickens are gone.

Their last day at the farm - snacking on their favorite, kale.

I actually found another home for them that is only three miles away. I didn't really want to butcher them. My heart wasn't into that. However, they needed to be dealt with so we could get rid of the rat problem in the barn. We also want to move the chicken coop out of the barn and into its own building. We have two cement pads we can choose from and I will look at plans over the winter. Early next Spring, we will start over with baby chicks.

We, however, added a mama cat and her four kittens to the homestead! The kittens are adorable and I hope to get pictures of them soon. They don't sit still very long! Keep an eye on my Instagram account for pictures of them!

The garden is wrapping up. I am canning the last of the tomatoes. Paige and I picked what we thought were the tomatoes that were ready or were going to ripen before the big freeze a week ago (?). The plants were killed by the frost, but several more tomatoes survived. Dane and I picked those last night to finish ripening in the house. I have canned close to 50-55 pints of salsa, 36 pints of pizza sauce, and 17 quarts of spaghetti sauce. The last tomatoes will become crushed tomatoes by the end of the week.


I still have peppers to freeze that were not used in canning, but they might get eaten before that happens! I froze eight bags of shredded zucchini. I have four zucchini left and that might just happen them too. I dug up the beets and they are sitting in a cooler in the basement. I need to get them used up soon before they go soft.

I still have pumpkins to finish picking. The potatoes need to finish being dug up. The kale is still going strong. Everything else is dead. I need to get a spot cleared to plant garlic. Otherwise, the garden needs to be cleaned up, the rather ineffective tomato cages need to be put away, and hopefully get the transplanting of the strawberries and lilies done.

The new sump pump and plumbing is in the pit and being used. We never shut that one off, but the plumbing needed to be replaced and a different style of sump pump had to be put in. Hopefully now, the basement will stay much drier with the new set-up.

We had to put a new toilet in. Unfortunately, we both dislike plumbing. However, we like to save money and this wasn't too bad. We couldn't find a tank to toilet gasket that would work with our old toilet. Since the toilet was leaking pretty badly, we bought a new one and got that installed. We did eventually find a gasket online that will work and this winter we will replace the upstairs toilet that nobody likes to use.

Rob has the walls and ceiling painted in the shop. He replaced the breaker box in the shop with a bigger one and will take the old one from the shop to replace the old fuse box in the garage. His skills amaze me and how much he can accomplish amazes me too! I think next on the list is running more electrical for outlets and lights and building shelves and cabinets for his things.

The kids are staying busy. Dane started basketball last week and has practices for another couple of weeks until league play starts. Paige is finished up with marching band, cross country, and all-state choir auditions. She is starting jazz choir this week, working on the set for the fall play, and enjoying a little down time before large group speech starts.


And before I forget, I started my YouTube channel! Sometimes it is just easier for me to talk to a camera than to sit down and type a blog post. However, I will be doing both as much as I can now! You can check out my YouTube channel here! Please subscribe for updates there too!

Let me know what you have been doing this last month!

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Monday, September 19, 2016

Monday Monthly Update From The Homestead - August/September Edition


I love this time of year! We are so busy trying to keep up with the yard, the garden, and the projects. So this will be a monthly update for now and in the future. 

In August, you realize that summer is winding down fast. You may have at least two months left to get everything done outside that you can get done. Canning is full speed ahead trying to keep up with the produce. While I love dehydrating, I am finding myself doing a lot of canning this year.

Then September comes and you realize you may be running out of time! 

Canned green beans

We canned several quarts and four pints of green beans. We also canned summer squash pickles and zucchini relish. I froze eight quart size bags of vegetable pasta sauce. I have canned some salsa and need to do A LOT MORE! I froze a lot of the small onions from the garden to be used with roasts and in stews. 

After waiting patiently, oh so patiently, on the tomatoes, they are finally starting to come along. We have picked more grape tomatoes than we can keep up on eating. I still have lots and lots of green tomatoes though. I did give the tomatoes a good trimming as recommended by several gardeners. This has helped tremendously! I keep cutting back vines about once a week with great results. The tomatoes have been growing faster and turning red faster. Yeah!

I seem to have a lot of green peppers in the garden too. They are suppose to turn to red, orange, and yellow peppers, but nothing yet. If they stay green, I will still use them and freeze them for future use. I also have some mild banana peppers coming along too. I am not sure what I will do with them yet, but I will figure it out!

I also have a lot of zucchini which I have been using for a lot of zucchini bread. I have also been adding it to other dishes too as well as grilling it. I also grew some yellow crookneck squash. I will probably not be doing that again. I wanted yellow smooth neck squash, but I didn't read the package close enough. Oh well, the chickens love them! I did pull one hill of yellow squash plants out yesterday and will probably do the rest 


 Pumpkin blossoms

The potatoes have tasted great and I need to get the rest of them dug up. The pumpkins are coming along great too. The beets need to be dug up also. I actually have carrots! They germinated really late, but they are there and growing!

The chickens are still alive. That is saying a lot. We lost one chicken for reasons we couldn't figure out. We have one chicken who will be on the chopping block soon because she is not laying anymore and is becoming very mean to the other hens. The rest of the ladies will need to find new homes or become stew meat. We are only getting 4-6 eggs a day which we still enjoy. However, we have a rodent problem in the barn where their coop is and in the walls. The food and the water is attracting the problem and we need to get rid of the problem. 

So the chickens need to go for now. We will start over in the late winter - early spring with a new crop of chicks. I know I said previously that I wanted to add to the flock, but this problem really needs to be addressed before the rodents find a way into the shop.

Back of the barn

The shop in the barn is coming along great! The walls that are going to be painted are done. Rob stuffed more insulation down the walls before painting them to help keep the shop warmer. The floors in the shop and back half of the barn have been power washed too. It was amazing to see the difference after doing that! Rob wants to finish the ceiling and paint that. He also wants to finish insulating around the windows and get those trimmed out. 

We have enough rain for quite awhile. I am sooooo tired of mowing! Unfortunately, the forecast says rain again this week through the weekend. Oh well, it keeps the garden growing!

Otherwise, school has started! Woo hoo! We started on August 23rd and it has been pretty smooth sailing. The kids have been taking their lunches every day which has been an awesome savings on my pocketbook! Paige has been busy with cross counry, marching band, and choir (All-state, jazz, chamber, and concert). Dane is thankfully not really involved in anything yet! Dane turned 12 in August and we took him to Arnold's Park! It was a lot of fun!

We are still doing a lot of cleaning out, decluttering, selling stuff we don't need anymore, and donating other things. I keep thinking I am done for awhile, but then I reconsider things I don't need anymore!

What have you been up to this last month?

Thanks for reading,
Erica



Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Monday Update From The Homestead - July 25 & August 1


We are still here, still busy, and still finding more and more projects to do. I think the projects are actually finding us, but we always find things to do! I stay busier than I like and most days I have no idea what I need to do first. That is life though and I try to stay positive no matter what.

I am kind of back to purging and decluttering. I am trying to get Shali's room packed up. I also am trying to do a deep purge of the dining room. We used the room everyday, but it is also become a collect all for the things I don't have a home for. Time for a lot of things to go!

The garden is really starting to produce. The peas are done and I managed to get one quart size bag of shelled peas in the freezer. The green beans are starting to get overwhelming. I need to start canning them. The kale is going to the chickens. The grape tomatoes are starting and they are delicious! We are starting to get zucchini and yellow squash! So good! We could dig potatoes at any time if we want. This is my best garden yet!

I canned eight half-pints of zucchini squash. The little bit I sampled was delicious!

The chickens are doing fine. We are trying to figure out who is laying and who is not. The decision has been made to add some pullets to the flock, just have to get them now. I know someone who has Barred Rocks also ready to lay and that is probably what I will get.

Dane is back home from camp and Paige is busy going to band camp and then all-state choir camp this next weekend. She is done with Driver's Ed and she passed! We took the projects to fair and the kids did very well. We learned some new things for next year and I marveled at the creativity of some of the kids' projects.

We cleaned up more from the storm two weeks ago. We had to have the utility company come out and take care of a branch that had fallen and was pushing down on one of the electricity lines running to the pole. We burned one pile of brush and added to it again the next day. It must have still had a hot spot because it burned again all on its own. We have another pile to burn yet. We have branches still falling out of trees from being hung up in the trees.

We had a pig come visit from two miles away. We were surprised to say the least! His owner came and got him quickly. All was well. If we get pigs, we need a very secure shelter and we were not equipped for that right now!

We are cleaning up the yard some more and making it tidier. We are also fixing a lot of little things like doors and windows. We are also fixing a few things on the wooden play set in order to sell it. The kids have outgrown it and it is time for it to bless another family. We added more fence posts to the garden fence in order to give it more stability.

And, oh yeah...mowing. I am a little tired of mowing.

I think that is it for now. My brain is a bit fried and I can't remember much more.

What did you do this last week or two?

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Monday, July 18, 2016

Monday Update From The Homestead - July 18


Another week gone by in a blur...

I have an observation to make though. I am sure you all probably know this, but there is nothing like having company or family coming over to make sure you get a lot of cleaning up to do in a very short amount of time!

Mowing had to be done after getting some much needed rain. We trimmed around everything. We hauled a load of broken appliances and junk that didn't fit in the dumpster to the landfill. We even took a magnetic roller around the buildings to get the nails and screws that had been dropped. We tidied up a lot and got a lot of little piddly projects done. I weeded as much as possible, but that chore is never done. 

I picked my first crop of peas of the year! Yeah! 



Family came and we had a great time! We talked a lot. We ate a lot. We watched the dogs play. We shot off fireworks and had a big bonfire.

Then Saturday night brought this:







We got a fierce wind, two inches of rain, and a bit of hail. The garden fence had to be repaired. The potatoes were flattened, but I think they will be fine. The tomatoes and their cages need to be fixed. The rest of the garden is looking a bit flat too. We have a lot of branches and trees to clean up. It could have been a lot worse, but so disheartening to look at when we just had everything cleaned up!

On tap for this next week is cleaning up the yard again, working on the shop some more, weeding some more, picking our first crop of zucchini and hopefully green beans. I am hoping to plant more beets and maybe spinach for the fall. Paige will be done with Driver's Ed at the end of this week. Dane will be finishing his projects for the county fair as he will be at camp the following week. 

That is it for us! What is going on at your homestead?

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Monday, July 11, 2016

Monday Update From The Homestead - July 11


Whew! Another week gone! I swear I am going to figure out how to slow down time...

The kids were a busy bunch this last week. They went to their dad's house for two days. Paige drove some more Driver's Ed and worked at the pool (she is a life guard). Dane went to his aunt and uncle's house on Saturday with his grandparents.

On Sunday, the kids and I went to my parents' house to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary! Happy Anniversary Mom & Dad! A lot has happened in forty years and I am sure more will happen in the future!

This week, Dane has basketball camp from today to Thursday. Paige is on her second to last week of Driver's Ed. Both kids are frantically getting ready for county fair that is the first week in August!

And we have family coming Friday to stay with us this weekend! Whew!

So what happened last week?

I weeded the garden. Amazingly, it needs weeding again.

We got some much, much needed rain after being dry for almost three weeks. I had started to water the garden because the tomatoes were starting to wilt and the peppers were not growing. I think both are starting to come out of it now. The peas are definitely ready to pick and I hope to get that done tonight yet.


I dug up all my garlic. The plants had dried back so it was time. The bulbs were pretty decent sized and I am pretty happy with the harvest. I got thirty bulbs which is what I planted. I also got some bulbits. I had planted the garlic last fall about an inch into the soil. The bulbs must have sunk further down because I had bulbits which are a second forming on the bulb above the surface. They are still edible and I learned a lot about planting garlic this year!

We cleaned up more of the shop and worked on the barn. Rob got another wall of the shop painted which he is happy about. He also cleaned the front of the house, front porch, the front doors, and the sidewalk! The house looks brand new!


We also had two date nights at the tractor pulls in Rockwell! I love watching them every year. Rob got me into tractor pulling and I am so happy he did!

I am also trying to get back into cooking more from scratch and planning ahead for the week. This is my goal almost every weekend, but the weekends just seem to fly by. Saturday morning, I made two loaves of bread, two batches of granola bars, and a double batch of egg muffins. We ate some of the egg muffins for lunch Saturday, but the rest have been for breakfasts this week. I also diced up a canned ham we were given and will use that for scrambled eggs, omelets, pizza, and pasta salad.

How was your week?

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Monday Update From The Homestead - June 27 & July 4


This last two weeks have really been a roller coaster. We have had a few ups and a few downs. 

The garden is growing well. All except my peppers. They are not growing much at all. I think I am going to hit them with a shot of fertilizer. My carrots did not come up very well either. However, I hit up some end of the season sales. I planted more tomatoes, peppers, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries. I will probably go back and get some more strawberry plants and see what else is left. 

We need rain and soon. We are suppose to get a storm tonight so hopefully we get some significant rainfall with that. We are dry...as in do not light a fire anytime soon dry. 



We lost our house cat, Lola last Friday. She hadn't been doing very well this last week and was scheduled to go back to the vet last Friday. She passed away on the way to the vet. She was 15 years old and had lived a long, good life. We buried her in the yard so the kids can visit. They were pretty attached to her.



The chickens are doing great. The egg output has been slowing down a bit which leaves us with some tough decisions. Rob wants to put up a camera in the coop and see who is actually laying or not. If they are not laying, they need to be part of the freezer. I am a little more attached than that. However, I am really considering getting some pullets and expanding the flock so we have fresh layers. I have already looked into it.

Other than that, we have been doing a lot of cleaning up outside. We (meaning mostly Rob) took down two dead trees in the grove. We have also been putting some work into the inside of the barn. As of right now, the goals for July is to: 

  1. paint the walls in the shop 
  2. move the wood in the barn to a neater pile in one of the other buildings 
  3. rent or borrow a pressure washer to clean the floor in the barn
  4. kill as many rats and mice as possible
  5. build shelves in the shop so Rob can find his stuff a lot faster and easier

We are never bored. That is for certain.

What is going on at your homestead? What is your goals for July?

Thanks for reading, 
Erica


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Monday Update From The Homestead: June 13 & June 20


It has been two weeks again and time is flying! I mean to do this every week and hopefully I will again soon. I am lacking pictures for this post, but stay tuned and I will have more!

The clothesline is done! Rob finished that last week with minimal assistance from me. I love it because it is a little higher than the last one and it has a center support post. I can hang more laundry on it without the center sag that I had with the old clothesline. I hung laundry out all day yesterday and love it! I hope to have a post up this week about how we built it!

I have been spending a lot of time in the garden trying to stay ahead of the weeds. I haven't been entirely successful, but I am doing the best I can. Rob and Dane have been catching toads for the garden to help with the bugs. So far, so good! Before they started, my green beans and zucchini plants were getting eaten alive. We have managed to keep the rabbits out, but the bugs do not respect the fence!

Paige starts Driver's Ed this week. She just got her permit last week and Grandpa has been taking her driving. Yes, I am totally shirking my parenting duty on this. I am fine with that!

We have started on the shop and the back of the barn. Rob has been getting the work bench the way he wants it and fixing/painting what needs to be done. I started on the back of the barn yesterday. Yuck! Too many critters making a mess! About a third of the barn got done and hopefully I can finish the rest by the end of next weekend.

We (mostly the kids) cleaned out the chicken coop. We do a thorough cleaning about every three months with a more frequent cleaning under the roost. I love the smell of a freshly cleaned coop!

Otherwise we have been doing a lot of little things like getting curtains bought two months ago hung up, going through more stuff and getting rid of a lot, prepping, and staying on top of the kids and their chores!

What have you been up to?

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Protecting The Garden: Building A Critter Proof Fence


One of our big projects this year became putting a fence around the garden. I was having a serious problem with rabbits and possibly deer. Never mind the dog that also liked running at full force through the garden. 

Since I live in a wide-open rural area surrounded by farmland, the critters don't have a problem finding my garden nor eating what I planted. I lost 22 tomato and 12 pepper plants to them earlier this Spring. It was time to end the free buffet. 

What we bought and used:
200' - 4' tall wooden snow fence
200' rabbit wire fence
3/8" narrow crown staples (we used an air stapler)
post hole driver
several 6' fence posts
5  - 8' landscape timbers
3/4" fence staples
2" x 4" green treated lumber
1" x 6" green treated lumber
12 gauge fencing wire
2" and 3" coated deck screws
2 barrel bolts
2 - 4" hinges
chicken wire fence
4 solar lights

Just some information before we launch into how we built the fence. My garden is 25' x 60'. We didn't need all 200 feet of fence, but they were sold in 50' rolls. I choose snow fence for costs and functionality. Rob would have preferred a white picket fence, but that was a little more than my frugal heart could handle. 

First Rob set the fence posts in the ground. We did use contractor's string to make sure that lines were straight for setting the posts in the ground. We also set the landscape timbers in the corners and packed the ground them. We used a post hole auger for the corner posts and post hole driver for the fence posts.



While he was doing that, I was rolling out the snow fence on the ground. I laid the rabbit wire fence over top of the snow fence and stapled the fences together. The spaces between the boards in the snow fence were too wide so we needed additional protection from the critters. 



After that we put the fence up to the fence posts using the 12 gauge fencing wire in two spots on the posts to hold the fence to the posts. We used four fencing staples on each of the landscape timbers to hold the fence to the timbers. We suggest not picking a windy day to do this - it just makes the job harder. 



We live in a very windy area due to the flatness of the land. We regularly get 20-40 mile per hour winds. We need to add support to the fence and the corner posts to help keep the fence upright. We used 2" x 4" in 8', 10', and 12' lengths. We screwed them to the posts and each other. 



Rob built the gate to the garden using the 1" x 6" boards and chicken wire fence. We decided to use two barrel bolts to keep the gate closed. If you look very closely at the bottom of the gate, Rob buried a 1" x 6" in the ground to close the gap between the gate and the ground. We don't need to offer a way in for the rabbits. We also have a 2" x 4" across the bottom inside the gate for the gate to rest against and more support for the gate posts. 

We also put a solar light in each of the corners for light and looks. It does look very nice!



This fence looks simple, but it took us a lot of trial and error to put up. We reset the posts once. We added posts after the fence went up. The ground did not firm up like the concrete it usually is so we needed to support the corner posts better. 

We also made a few of the posts wide enough to be able to get a tiller into the garden. We can pull out the board where we overlapped the fences and roll back the fence. 

Are we done? For now. We are still thinking about putting a board around the bottom of the fence for even more support. Even though I don't mind the color of the fence, I might still paint the fence white. 

Did you need a fence around your garden? What did you do?

Thanks for reading,
Erica


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