Spring is slowly, but surely, coming upon us here in the great Northeast. It’s been a very wet, muddy winter, with nearly non-stop rain and snow all season. Period of warmth allowed the snow to keep melting between storms, but we have flooding in all low-lying areas, including all around our property!
Our seedlings are going strong indoors – tomatoes, eggplants, peppers and a few greens – and I have been able to get out on some of the milder days to start tilling and preparing my garden bed. I added more soil and some of our compost, and it is looking lovely! If I was a plant, I’d want to settle my roots there! Any how, for a detailed look at what I will be growing, eating and preserving in our garden this year, head on over to our
What Are We Growing? page and check it out!
This spring completes our first year as beekeepers! I am so eager to get a look inside our beehives. On warm days, both hives are active, and you can see the honeybees coming and going, doing their cleansing flights and preparing for Spring work. This was so exhilarating and relieving the first time we saw it! Our honeybees survived their first winter! So many times you hear how first year keepers lose one or more hives, and so we were feeling the pressure to do as much as we could do help our hives along.
I did get to peek at them a few weeks ago, on a warm, sunny day. I removed the top covers on each hive for just a few minutes, long enough to replace some of the wet pine shavings in the top box that help control the overall hive moisture (it’s so critical to keep excess moisture out of the hives during the winter, so the bees don’t get wet, cold, and die). There was a small cluster of bees in each hive that were quietly working on the candy boards. The silence that hundreds of honey bees are capable of is astounding – I will never forget bringing home our two packages of honey bees, and how you would never know they were in the car or house if someone didn’t tell you!
We picked up a bunch of hive bodies, and are hoping to create a third colony this year. Three, we have decided, will be our perfect number of hives, and I am hoping we can do a successful split of our strong hive, to create the new colony.
Our chickens are doing very well, and resumed laying a few weeks ago. How I have missed fresh eggs! We have been able to allow them to free range around the property, they tend to stay in the general area of the coop, but I have found them wandering off a time or two. The did build an adorable nest in a sea grass we have growing up front, where they started depositing their eggs on days they free-ranged. Luckily we found it early on, before they eggs had been sitting there long, as I couldn’t find one of the chickens and went on a panicked run of the property. We do have a lot of large hawks, some foxes and coyotes, so the reality of them being picked up by a hungry predator is very real.
We are hoping to completely redo the chicken run, and replace the coop, this year. If all goes well, I would like to get a couple new chicks in Spring 2019 to add to our flock!
Our pantry, while dwindling down on canned goods, is actually still feeding us quite well. We finished up the last of the tomatoes two weeks ago, the peaches are gone, and most of the beets. There are a few jars each of strawberries, blueberries and apple butter, and maybe one or two lingering on our peaches. We have been replenishing the vegetable stock on a regular basis. I used to just freeze it all in bouillon-style cubes, but I like having the jars of stock better, so we have been doing that more frequently.
Our carrots held over really well, all 267 of them! I still cannot get over how many we put away. We finished the first crate around February, and are wrapping up the second box. This box got watered a little less, so we have had more losses as far as wrinkly or woody carrots, but we just drop them in the stock pot and it works just fine for that purpose!
I have big dreams for redesigning our upstairs pantry, and moving my herbal apothecary upstairs. We preserved a lot of our own herbs last year, and I feel like we would use them more frequently if we could see those beautiful chamomile flowers, the soft lambs ear, or the robust rosemary just beckoning to use from an rough-hewn, open shelf.
Home & Family
We have done small projects here and there in the house. Our basement is just too damp, so I gave up on having a craft room. I relocated my spinning wheel and sewing machine & table upstairs. We plan to just use the space for our seasonal storage, root cellar/pantry, and to build more wine bottle shelving and develop more of our own wine cellar.
An afternoon of some simple wood work resulted in a beautiful new closet system for our bedroom, and we were able to get rid of our dresser entirely! I love this, as it helps us continue to pursue our clean, minimal-ish (we definitely aren’t true minimalists!) lifestyle. It has made the closet space far more functional and sensible, and I am so happy!
This year, we also transitioned to a whole-foods, plant-based (WFPB) diet. Similar to a vegan diet, this means no animal-products – like meat or cheese. We don’t adhere to this 100%, as we still enjoy our eggs and occasional seafood. We will also, from time to time, enjoy some wild game, but these instances are rare and far between.
The other reason we use the term WFPB is because a lot of vegetarians/vegans simply replace meat/dairy with highly-processed alternatives. We rarely ate processed foods before our changeover, so we aren’t going to incorporate them now. Everything is simply fresh and homemade.
So far, we are all loving the benefits and positive effects of the diet, and it has renewed our creative passions for cooking. I have been experimenting with vegan cheeses and creams, and the results are delicious!
I also plan on baking more this year – bread, mostly. I am making an organic Einkorn sourdough starter, and want to make more whole grain and sprouted breads, naan, flatbreads, etc., for us to enjoy.
There is a lot ahead of us for this year! Big projects, small projects, and of course the usual routines and property maintenance that make up our wonderful, homesteading life. We kicked off the year with a fantastic maple sap harvest, turning it into 40-oz of beautiful maple syrup. The sap run is, to me, the marker of the beginning of a new year, and a new cycle. Then the hustle and bustle of the year bursts open – preparing the gardens and seed starting, cleaning the house from the winter, splitting and stacking and moving firewood, rotating compost, bee keeping, lawn maintenance, garden maintenance, foraging, picking, canning and preserving, preparing the pantry for winter; then it’s time for our annual Harvest Festival, and the wind down back into winter begins with putting our tools to bed, buttoning up hives, coops, greenhouses and loading the winter bins with firewood once more.
I’m looking forward to the explosion of activity, the physical labor and the long days ahead!