Homestead Update: A Greenhouse

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One project that has been underway since March on our property is the building of our very own greenhouse – shed. This combination building was really an exciting project for me, as I have dreamed of having a greenhouse for years. With our growing homestead, we needed a space to organize the gardening tools, yard implements, our chicken bedding, feed and tools, as well as our new assortment of beekeeping equipment.  Continue reading “Homestead Update: A Greenhouse”

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Honeybee Hive Set-up

Yesterday I prepared the site and setup the beehives for the honeybees we have coming at the end of next week.

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Happy hives!

Keeping honeybees has been a long time dream of mine, and I am so excited to finally be embarking on our own beekeeping journey! I cleaned, heat treated, and repainted our hive bodies back in February, during a nice warm period we had. Since then, we have ordered the few extra pieces we needed, and are now feeling ready for our new friends. Continue reading “Honeybee Hive Set-up”

April Update

Hello all! Just me, finally making myself post an update so you know we’re all still here. I actually have a slew of post topics and pictures ready, but we have been working all day and right up to bedtime on our various projects, so I haven’t carved out anytime for the blog.

What have we been up to? Well, a dear friend passed away a few months ago, and we were lucky enough to receive his old beehives.  My husband and I had always hoped this friend would be our bee-mentor when we were ready for bees, but we are happy to have and use his hives! We had a very warm spell in February, so while we boiled down our maple sap for maple syrup, we cleaned and scraped down the hive bodies and frames; removed wax moth cocoons, and heat treated everything to kill any bacteria or mites that could be lingering. After a fresh coat of a beautiful, pastel green paint, they are ready for our yard! Our honeybees should be here just in time for Earth day, as our pick up day is scheduled for 4/22! How perfect.

We will still work on developing our Mason bee community, and we have maybe 10 of our own cocoons from last year that should be hatching soon. We did order more cocoons, and I got the tubes out about two weeks ago, so they’ll have time to air out and not smell like humans!

As far as animals go, I would still like to get a bat house up for our local silver-haired bats, but I’m a little late to the party for those returning this spring. I’ve made it a goal for the fall, to get it up before winter, this way it will be aired out and ready for them when they return from migration.

Our five chickens are doing well, and all of our hens are laying. I picked my layer breeds specifically for their hardiness for our zone, as well as their egg color. We get turquoise, chocolate-red, and two shades of tan eggs every day, and they never get old to look at! They are just beautiful – it makes me think that people have no idea what they are missing out on when they purchase commercial eggs at the grocery store! So sad.

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We do have a big coop project ahead, which has been set back due to extreme flooding. With the snow melt off and all the rain we have had lately, the ground is absolutely saturated, and the water has nowhere to go – creating a trickling stream in the center of our yard, that flows straight down into the coop! The entire run flooded, and the chickens were up to their little knees in water and mud, poor things! We dug some channels and moved rocks to allow it to drain, but unfortunately, until the river in the yard stops, we can’t do much else! It’s also supposed to rain again for most of the week, which I hope changes. Once everything is dry, we have a plan to adapt the coop run so it drains better, and this doesn’t happen again. We had experienced minor flooding in that area before, but never like this! I hope it doesn’t last long,  but we put a wooden pallet in the run on top of the mud to give them a dry place to stand when outside, and much of the flooding has gone down at least.

This flooding reminds me of the failure of my massive corn and oat patch last year, which was just next door to our coop and between flooding and the squirrels, was a flop. My husband built the area up with stone, and found a (somewhat) local guy who builds greenhouses, sheds, etc., and he has begun building a greenhouse-shed combo for us. The frame is up, and we painted the door and window frames already. Just waiting for the siding and roofing to come in, and it’ll be finished! It’s coming out beautifully, and I am so excited to “move in” with my seedlings and gardening tools!

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Another big development that I haven’t shared yet is that we are expecting our second child this August, I’m about five months pregnant now. So we have been doing some house projects to prepare the baby’s room, move around existing furniture, and occupy my incessant need to be busy. We recently removed the wallpaper from our hallway and repainted it, it came out beautiful. I’ve done some knitting projects in the evenings, and made a blanket, some booties, and a little stuffed fox, for our new little one. I even adapted the fox pattern to make a little raccoon for our nearly 2-year old daughter, who just loves raccoons.

I’m also working on a painting project for my daughter’s birthday present, and I’ll post photos of it when it’s finished. It’s coming out really nicely, so I’m very excited.

All my vegetable plants and some flowers are now healthy seedlings, everyone is on track for this year’s garden.

We’ve also been busy with family and friend events, dinners and get togethers. We’re celebrating two weddings this year (of which either my husband or myself is actually “in”) so we have been occupied with various preparations on those ends as well.

I have some recipes to share, DIY project ideas, and more, so I’ll try to get those ASAP. But at least for now, you see what we’ve been up to in Woodford, and know some our springtime projects!

June & July

Hi all! Summer is blazing by here in New England. Our days have been a flurry of activity, from chores and farm work, to days on the lake and evenings around the bonfire.image

Our garden is nearing that full-swing, daily harvest mode. We enjoyed our spring radishes and even some fresh strawberries (the few the chipmunks left for us, that is!). We’ve snacked on snap peas and enjoyed salads and fresh herbs. Now it’s time for bushels of pole beans, roasted beets, blackberries, squash, peppers, and sun-kissed tomatoes. Our garden is bursting with produce, and our pumpkin hill is loaded with massive plants featuring nearly a dozen little pumpkins.
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Our day-old chicks arrived in early June, and spent about 4-5 weeks indoors. They’re out in the coop now, and I thoroughly enjoy watching their antics.

We’ve had our share of poultry problems this time around – one chick didn’t survive shipping, and a second died suddenly a few days later. Yesterday, I went out to the coop to discover that one of my designated layers, a Silver Laced Wyandotte, had squeezed out of the coop at some point. We had thought our little runt was too big to make it through, but alas, she’s gone. We hiked around in the slim chance we could recover her, but knew it was highly unlikely. At least we went heavy on our order for chicks, to help buffer us from such losses.

We received and released Leafcutter bees last week, only to have the misfortune of unexpected torrential downpours almost immediately after. A quick check of the tubes last night revealed a few bees have stuck around, I only hope the others found safe spots to wait out the storm. Leafcutter bees are astoundingly small! I don’t see them faring well in such heavy rains.

 

July 4th also brings around Garlic Harvesting Day! Based on the weather and the appearance of our garlic, we harvested  a few days early and pulled up our bulbs on 7/1. I let them dry out and then processed and hung them on the fourth. We planted 48 cloves, and ended with a harvest of 45 bulbs! Not bad, only a loss of three, and the bulbs are much bigger than last year’s harvest! Around 50-bulbs seems to be the perfect number for us, we have a few small bulbs leftover from 2014’s harvest, just in time to transition to our new stuff! I’m letting the new garlic cure while we finish out the last of 2014’s garlic.

If you’ve never grown Garlic before, you should! It’s an easy plant-it-and-forget-it type that doesn’t require a lot of room. Check out my tips on planting and harvesting and curing garlic.

Our firewood for 2017 is all split at last, and we have been working on stacking it neatly so it can season. I am excited to have it completed so we can take a measurement and figure out how many cords are there. We have so much, I don’t see us burning it all in one winter, which is wonderful as that puts us off to a good start on 2018’s wood!
Fire wood is one of those pivotal, forever-ongoing projects for homesteaders. Do you know what wood is good for burning? Check out my guide on choosing the right wood for firewood.

In splitting the logs, we came across some really beautiful oak and spalted maple, which my husband cut down into thin round and rectangular boards. We’ll sand and smooth them a little, and then I intend on wood burning some for decorative signs. I hope to have a few available in our Etsy shop soon, along with a few other handmade items from Woodford/locally sourced materials.

Another project we just wrapped up was the Cabernet Sauvignon we started in 2014. It was finally ready for bottling, and we corked the last of it this past Sunday. We ended up with a little over (4) cases of wine total. While we still hold that our 2013 was better, but this wine came out very nice and is an enjoyable vintage. We are hoping to purchase grapes again this fall, it’s such a wonderful experience, and processing the grapes is so much fun.

There is much work ahead as the summer rolls on and fall approaches, and we also are looking forward to hosting our first Woodford Harvest Festival, an event we hope to grow and repeat annually. Our goal is for the dinner to be solely comprised of home-cooked food that is made with ingredients that we, our family and friends have grown, raised or harvested ourselves. A sort of celebration of Nature and the homesteading lives we enjoy.

Its been a wondeful summer all in all. We have had great success and some troubles too, but all are great learning experiences that we will take with us into our future adventures.

Until next time, may your gardens be plentiful and your hands busy!

 

Rain Barrels, Mason Bees & More

Hi all! Just a little update from Woodford!

This week we hooked up our first 55-gallon rain barrel! This particular barrel is near my gardens, so it will be used to water all of the delicious veggies I hope to have! My husband made a too-cute wooden box to house the barrel out of pallet wood, and decorated it with miscellaneous items found on the property. He added a beautiful hand pump to the top for me to use, and boy, am I excited! Now I just need the plants to water! We lucked out as far as testing out the new setup went, not only did it rain the next day, but it rained straight through the night too, FILLING the barrel!! I was astounded… Now we just need to get the others hooked up!

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After two potential Mason bee sightings, we have put our Mason bee house out. The bees we ordered are shipping at the end of April, as we wanted to be sure there was enough flowering plants for them, but I’m pretty sure I saw at least one already! It’s been so warm, I wouldn’t be surprised if native, dormant bees have started hatching. The daffodils are up and close to blooming, and I see a few irises peeking through the soil too.

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All of of our greenhouse plants are doing well! I have (3) varieties of tomatoes, (3) varieties of peppers and (1) variety of eggplant in there now, all growing rapidly. The greenhouse gets so much sun during the day that I only have to use a heat pad on the cold nights to keep them warm. I’ve never had to use the heat lamp, and on most afternoons we have to open the greenhouse up because it will get up to 100 degrees in there quite quickly!

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I have some herbs, cucumbers and flowers in the germinator that are slowly but surely taking off. I may have mentioned that I attempted to grow Strawberry spinach again, the one plant that has alluded me for the past few years. Well, it may only be one, but I have one little seed that germinated! I made my husband look at the little plant as proof that it existed, in the instance it heels over and dies soon, just to spite me of course. Everyone swears this plant is weed-like: grows easily and is tough to get rid of, but you could’ve fooled me! Oh well, I’ll just have to see what happens with my one little seedling.

Tomorrow is the first official day of Spring, although we have been enjoying Spring temperatures for several weeks now. Ironically enough, there is a potential snow storm in the forecast! The anticipated snow fall and accumulation keeps fluctuating widely in the reports though, so we will have to see if we get anything at all! The threat of snow is a good and much needed reminder, however, of why it isn’t a good idea for me to go crazy and start throwing out the snap pea and salad mix seeds. I’m so eager to get gardening!

 

 

 

2016 Goals

When we first purchased our dream home, almost a year ago now, I posted about some of our immediate dreams and goals for the property. In the past 10 months, we’ve put in a ton of work, and the change is drastic!

It’s exciting to reread the list of goals and see so many of them have been accomplished already! (Read all about our initial goals here: 2015 Homestead Goals) The yard has been cleared and the grass is gorgeous, the flower beds removed and prepped for this year’s vegetables and herbs, and the beaten old shed was torn down. We have since decided against building a new shed in the back, so we can scratch that one out!  For our firewood goal, we have about 3 years of wood which is excellent, and a testament to my husband’s diligent work last summer while I was on maternity leave.

The rain catch system is something we are currently working on, we have a small rain barrel for the chicken coop, and (2) 55-gallon barrels for the garden beds. It sounds like we may be getting two more, much larger containers to put under our deck as well. Being able to capture and use as much rainwater as possible for our animals and gardens  will really help our well out, especially since there is no way to know what type of Summer we will have! We managed to drain it dry last summer while obsessively tending our precious grass seed. Luckily the well recovered in only a few hours, but we want to do all we can to avoid that in the future.

We have also already begun work on the hillside which will be more play space and our orchard. It’s a big project, but we’ll take it one day at a time as always.

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Frugal Finds: My husband surprised me with two of these beautiful watering cans! Just $20 for the pair, they are large and heavy duty. I’m thrilled to have them in time for this year’s gardening season!

Starting on these projects has me thinking, what else do we want to accomplish this year? Many of our ideas are already under way, so I find myself hoping for success in all we do. I know failures and set backs will occur, and I can only hope they are minor and prove to be good learning lessons!

Without further ado, my hopes for 2016 are:

  1. Clear the hill for our orchard
  2. Plant ever greens behind stonewall for privacy (to replace the the rhodedendron we just hacked down, making our one close neighbor visible)
  3. Clean up the woods immediately surrounding our property (more wood for the stove!)
  4. Get our rain catch system set up ASAP!
  5. Build an outdoor fire pit
  6.  Successfully raise our 15 chickens from day-old chicks (let my layers be healthy and strong!)
  7. Create and maintain a healthy environment for our Mason bees, with a successful harvest of cocoons in the fall
  8. Have a successful first time harvest of oats
  9. Fill our “berry patch”with raspberries, blackberries and blueberries
  10. Ensure a good first year for our asparagus bed … We’ve done all the preparations, and the crowns should be shipping to us soon!
  11. Be blessed with another healthy acorn crop
  12. Beat the squirrels to harvesting the shagbark hickory nuts
  13. A bountiful and healthy garden, allowing us to eat well and hopefully have enough to not only share with family, but with extras to can, dehydrate and freeze
  14. Have another successful hunting season, with hopefully a harvest of at least one deer each
  15. Host our first annual harvest/homestead festival for family and friends
  16. Watch our daughter continue to grow and learn, surrounded by all the beauty and fun of nature

2016 has been kind to us thus far, with a very gentle winter. I do get nervous thinking about what the weather will be like for the rest of the year, as we pass 50-60 degree days already, but it is so completely out of my hands, that I don’t let it bother me. All I can do is plan, prepare and pray for a bountiful year!

 

Want to see what we have done so far, and how Woodford has changed? Check out our Creating Our Homestead page!

Photos from the Farm

 

 

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The sap is flowing! With the temperatures getting back below freezing overnight, our maple trees are producing an amazing quantity of sap – all of our buckets are over 1/4 full already.

 

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Newly transplanted to a wine barrel, we’re excited for this sign of Spring!

 

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Another sign of Spring! Is there anything better than fresh laundry from the line?

 

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Our Mason Bee home! Isn’t this adorable? The house itself is made from scrap wood, and my husband suggested the little bee emblem, which I did with our woodburner. We’re making the tubes from rolled newspaper, brown craft paper and empty bath tissue and paper towel tubes. We plan to add sticks, twigs and even a pine cone or two to fill in empty spots and give the Mason Bees some landmarks for marking their tubes. 

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