Category Archives: Family

Preparing for a Baby on the Homestead

Preparing for a new baby can be a big job in and of itself, especially if it is your first. Since I am pregnant with my second child, a lot of the first-time questions, like “what do I truly need?!” aren’t even a thought. We have blankets, clothes, wipes and diapers. Ok, done there.

But when you are managing a farm or homestead, planning for any baby has a few more considerations. The season the baby is due in actually matters – will you be resting up when wood needs to be split? Or, like me, ready to go any minute by the time the garden is bursting with delicious fruits and veggies begging to be harvested and preserved?

Since I am due mid-August, I have a few extra things I am planning and doing to alleviate the craziness that both a new baby and the end of summer on a homestead can bring.

    • Freezer Meals – I have been doing some extra cooking to put away a few extra dinners here and there. I wasn’t able to do this with my first (we moved when I was 9mo pregnant), and I know the ease of not having to plan, prep and cook a meal every night would have been really awesome for my husband for those first few weeks. This time around, I am putting away a few trays of heat-and-eat type meals – stuffed shells, lasagna, Hunter’s Pie, and Lentil Chicken – as well as freeze flat some bags of dump style meals, like pre-cut strips of chicken, bell peppers and onions for an easy fajita night.
    • Clean the House –  A final deep cleaning of the house is on my list for the end of July. Similar to a “spring cleaning”, I want to get in to all of those nooks and crannies and give the house a really good cleaning, so it will be easier for my husband and daughter (hey, she may be only 2, but she LOVES to clean!) to maintain during the first 2-weeks or so, when I can’t be up and about.
    • Prepare all Homemade Items –  I hand make all of our cleaning products, for both the body and the house. So on my to do list before August arrives is to make sure we are well stocked on soap bars, shampoo, body butter and sunblock; dishwasher soap, hand soap, laundry detergent and our all-purpose cleaning sprays.
    • Canning Stock-Up –  August is a busy month for canning and preserving; the garden is loaded with fresh produce that has a sensitive shelf life and needs to be processed. We alleviate a lot of extra costs by putting up our own tomatoes, sauces, stocks & broth, jams, pickles, and so on. We also store extra carrots and beets root-cellar style – we had fresh carrots from our own garden into February of this year, and only stopped because ate them all! Since I may be immobile during a few key weeks, I am going to make sure the root bins are ready, and that all the canning supplies are clean and on-hand; I’ll pick up a few extra packages of lids as well, so we won’t need to run out to get more.
    • Make Baby’s Items Early –  Spring and Summer are really busy for us. I have my seeds and vegetable plants to monitor, garden beds to prepare and plants to prune, transplant and stake. The grass must be cut (and cut, and cut, and cut…), the chicken coop cleaned, and the gardens watered. Wood must be cut to length, split, and stacked, and soon we’ll start moving wood for fall/winter 2017-2018 indoors to our wood bins/racks, saving kindling and making our own fire-starter bricks. . Never mind that my husband and I both hold jobs outside of the home, and we have a toddler! With this in mind, I went ahead and prepared all of the hand-made items for Baby #2 early in the year, while the weather was still cool. I made booties, hats, a toddler-sized blanket, and an adorable little stuffed fox for my little one, and have already set up and unpacked the newborn items that we had in storage from my daughter. I did treat myself to a new woven wrap to for baby wearing, which I am really looking forward to using. Baby wearing is the best, especially on a busy farm!
  •  
    • Home Birth Supplies – I delivered my daughter at home, a wonderful experience that I am excited to go through again with my second child. While my midwives bring along all of the medical supplies needed, I do have some basic supplies of my own to stock up on – chux pads, sanitary pads & wipes, herbs and tinctures, labor snacks and my postpartum meal. I also am going to try the Bengkung style of bellybinding as part of my postpartum care, so I purchased a beautiful length of cotton muslin for this purpose as well. For a full list of things I found useful during my first homebirth, check out my post on  home birth & postpartum supplies.

Summer Wind-down / Woodford Harvest Festival

Summer is coming to a close in New England, although sometimes days are still so hot that you would be inclined to think otherwise.

Our garden is slowing – there are a few final tomatoes and an eggplant left, along with some bell peppers, hot peppers, winter squash and gourds. The green beans we decided not to pull up and replant, instead allowing the pods to dry on the plants, so we can harvest and save the seeds for next year. Our fall snap peas and carrots are doing well, although the fall beets have a truly weak showing.

We certainly picked a winner when it came to our strawberry plants, which I put in last fall. They have continued to surprise us, and currently are bearing their THIRD crop of strawberries, with a fourth flowering under way! Strawberries in September?! It’s wonderful. They have improved in size as well, our first harvest consisted of sweet, but very small, berries. This third harvest has nice, large berries with a consistently beautiful taste.

Our roosters are crowing and the hens are squawking. They’re around 15-16 weeks now, so we will begin processing our meat birds, just in time for me to do a large fall cleanup before the colder temperatures settle in for good. We ended with (4) roosters and (8) hens. Four of the hens are our layers, and we have decided to keep one rooster, although who that will be remains undetermined for now.

This past weekend we hosted our first annual Woodford Harvest Festival. Family and friend joined us on the homestead with homemade dishes. We asked that everyone try to incorporate an ingredient – vegetable, fruit, meat or herb – that they had raised or harvested themselves. All of the meals were delicious and everyone did a great job in sticking to the theme. We hope the dinner has inspired everyone to garden, fish or hunt more in 2017, and indeed, we a heard a few people excitedly talking about ideas for next year’s festival.
Since our family features so many little ones, we did a tractor ride (filling the john Deere trailer full of straw), and filled a small sandbox that my husband made with feed corn for them to play in. We wanted to paint some of the mini pumpkins that we harvested too, but the kids were having too much fun to pull them away from the corn box!

My husband and I had saved a lot of food for our harvest festival, and were able to create meals and cocktails featuring our own tomatoes, eggplant, garlic, acorn bitters, garden herbs, homemade breadcrumbs, and maple syrup, as well as our first harvested chicken. We also served homemade Cabernet Sauvignon, hard cider and rhubarb wine. Guests brought dishes featuring their own tomatoes, basil, rhubarb, zucchini, venison, salmon, and their own wines and infused spirits.

This year’s festival was so wondeful, and I am really looking forward to next year. It is such a great reason to bring everyone together, and share in the delights or our gardening and hunting efforts!

Speaking of efforts, I am still happily looking at a full pantry. We have recently used a lot of our tomato sauce and diced tomatoes, but we still have plenty of pints and quarts of each left for the winter. We also have green beans, dilly beans, pickles, beets, blueberry jam, blueberry syrup, maple syrup, acorn bitters and a few quarts of a blend of onions, sweet and hot peppers and tomatoes that we have been using for chilis and pot roasts. We also have an assortment of herbs and hot peppers drying out, and of course all of our garlic is curing.

I have some butternut left to can, and we picked up some apples from a local orchard that I want to put up as well. Acorns are beginning to fall, so we will be able to harvest those shortly for fresh batches of bitters.

Archery hunting season for deer opened last week, and I am excited to get out into the woods and restock our freezer with meat. We have very little meat left from our 2015 season, so I am glad it is that time of year once again. I spent a few hours out in the woods on Sunday morning, and while it was a beautiful, perfect morning, the woods were quiet and the deer must have slept in!

We’re still working on the usual chores, and starting the final cleanups for the year. I’ve been busy with fall cleaning, organizing and a little decorating, as well as working on inventory for our shop as the holidays approach. I have a few more helpful posts lined up for final canning, motivation and tips, so keep tuned! Then we’ll delve into the usual seasonal switch, focusing on home projects and renovations, as well as recipes and craft tutorials.

Until then,
Brittney

8 Tips for a Successful Garden

image

If you have ever kept a garden, even a small one, you are aware of how much time and labor goes in. Unless you are going for the jungle-look, there are weeds to pull, plants to trim, stake and cover, never mind the time spent actually harvesting and preparing the produce for canning, dehydrating or freezing.image

I have been gardening for several years now, and each year I learn something new. I’ve had neat little gardens, and been the guilty keeper of a messy jungle garden. I’ve had multiple sized gardens, enjoying wide spread rows as well as the square-foot method. With all these experiences, I thought I would share some of my best gardening tips.

BeFunky Design

  1. Start weeding before you put in your plants. Most people think of weeding as something that needs to be done at the same time as planting, or just once those vegetables are in the ground. However, it’s never too early to pull weeds, and the sooner you start, the better. Weeding eliminates competition for your vegetables, by ensuring there is plenty of space for roots systems to develop, as well as stopping undesired plants from depleting the soil’s nutrients.
  2. Weed in the mornings. My morning routine always includes a trip to pull weeds in my vegetable and herb garden beds. Getting outside early means pulling weeds before the heat of the day, making the chore more enjoyable. It also reduces your sun exposure, making for healthier weeding, too. If you can’t make the mornings work, there is nothing less enjoyable about an early evening weed-pulling session. The important part is to weed daily. Pinch out those pesky plants before they get way ahead of you, and start wreaking havoc in your garden.image
  3. Thin seedlings in the morning or evening, only. Avoid thinning or moving seedlings when the sun is high and the day is hot. You are more likely to have success if you move them in the cool morning or evening, and give them a little drink of water right after.
  4. Thin seedlings after rain fall. Thinning right after a good rain has always proved to be the most successful for me as well – the ground is wet and soil soft, so less roots get damaged. If you’re in a dry spell, but those seedlings can’t wait, thin them after a good, hearty watering, in the early morning or late afternoon, when it is not in direct sun.
  5. Stake early. Even if your plants don’t need stakes or trellises yet, get these in place ASAP. This way you disturb the growing plant as little as possible, and the support is ready when needed.image
  6. It’s all about the roots! You can weed and weed until the sun goes down, but if you are leaving the roots behind, you’re wasting your time. Sure, I wear work gloves when dealing with thorny plants, or those with toxins like poison ivy, but when it comes to your every day weeds, bare-handed is the way to go. No gadget or glove will ever compare to the knowing, pincer-grasp of your fingers as they wiggle into the ground, following the weed down and pulling the whole plant out. Removing the roots (or at the very least, as much of them as possible), will prevent that plant from regrowing and making you feel crazy when the same weed keeps returning from the dead.image
  7. Enjoy it. There is no sense in doing something you don’t love, if you can avoid it. Gardening shouldn’t be a chore, where you “have” to go do this, or else. Gardening is a wonderful chance to be out doors, soaking in the sun, breathing in the fresh air. Admire the fall of sunlight on the various leaves and fruits, the songs of birds and gentle buzzing of your gardening-coworkers, those lovely little local bees.
  8. Share the love. Invite your children and loved ones into the garden with you. I love watching the delight on my daughter’s face as I hand her a freshly picked green bean or radish to eat. She wrinkles her nose and smiles so wide as she reaches out that tiny hand to grab a fresh, garden treat. She has even learned to spot and harvest our snap peas all on her own – standing on tip toe at the garden fence and reaching over to pull another into her mouth. I love knowing she will grow up in my gardens, pulling weeds and eating produce straight from the dirt and plant. I love the excitement I see even on my husband’s face when we see fresh berries developing, or stumble across a giant squash we never even saw as a bud. Sharing the knowledge and love of gardening with your family is one of the best gifts you can give, and watching them enjoy it too is one of the best you can receive.

Featured at the Homestead Bloggers Network

January

It’s January, and miraculously I am still looking out at golf course-green grass. We have had two dustings of snow (both of which melted away by mid afternoon)  and some ice but still no true winter. Temperatures continue to fluctuate, from the 40s down to single digits, although we are generally somewhere in the low- to mid- 30s lately.

Yesterday was a warmer day, just over 40 , so my husband I bundled ourselves and our daughter and went out to do some wood moving. It’s a surprisingly enjoyable task ; I’m not sure if it’s because it keeps the “cabin fever” at bay, or the endorphins released due to the physical activity, or simply the fact that we truly love our mini homestead and all the all that it entails. We have a large bin in our basement for firewood, as well as two racks in garage. With the bin depleted and the racks quickly following, so we took advantage of the “warmer” day and got to work. Our daughter enjoys being busy and doing chores, so I carried her on my back as we went along. A few wheelbarrow loads and about a half hour later and everything was full again,  but it was a nice chore that rewarded us with fresh air and time together.

 

Garden plans have been finalized for the beds, and all of the seeds/plants ordered. My planting diagram looks great this year, and I can’t wait to try it out. The first year in a new garden is always the toughest- learning what works where, how the sun falls, if the hose will reach all the way across and what woodland “neighbors” will be helping themselves to your banquet of neatly planted veggies. (Insert angry turkey chasing visions here… I just know they’re going to be trouble!)

Our chicks have been ordered too, 15 in all! I picked 5 different breeds to keep as layers, delighting in the job of choosing beautiful, hardy breeds that will yield a rainbow of egg colors. With our last round of chickens, we hadn’t intended on keeping layers, so egg production had never been a main focus. While we lucked out and had great layers, I’m excited at the prospect of chocolate, cream, speckled and even blue/green eggs!

The other 10 birds will be for meat, and for that end we chose Jersey Giants, a notoriously large bird that we hope will do well.

My goal in the next week is to clean and prepare my terminator and greenhouse for plants, and get a thermometer set in the greenhouse so I can monitor the temperature prior to plants going in. We have a few tricks for upping the temp when needed, but we have such large windows in this house that I don’t know if they will be necessary!

 

I started this post in the morning, I must confess, and while I normally don’t draw attention to the long time it tends to take me to write a post these days, I am doing so out of excitement as I announce that here in Woodford it is snowing! We finally have a good, strong snow coming down, with decent accumulation. It’s beautiful, sparkling and pure. A perfect end to a very nice day!

 

We are now: Life In Woodford!

Hello all!

I know everyone is just as busy as I am with our final fall/winter preparations. We have enjoyed some fires in our wood stove already as fall takes over here in New England, and after a week of rain (and having no drying machine!) we are swamped with laundry.

But I wanted to introduce our new blog name and look! Little Farm Living is now Life In Woodford! We are excited about this change, and hope you are too! Lovingly named for our property, Woodford, my husband and I hope to still share all the same adventures, DIYs and more. But as our blog has grown and expanded into topics past farming, we thought a new name was in order.

 Life In Woodford also makes a nice compliment to our Etsy store transition, from Little Chick Naturals to Woodford Knits & More. We do regret that this means we have dropped our bath & body care line, but I am happy to continue to share my Master Herbalist knowledge with you!

 I hope you will continue to follow our adventures here in Woodford!

Home Birth & Postpartum Supplies

 

There are already tons of blog posts and Pinterest links out there with lists of things you “need” to have a baby. Everytime I see these lists, I laugh. They’re so over the top (laptops? Makeup and eyelash curlers? Really??!) that I had to say enough already. For all the sensible women who just want to deliver their baby and be comfortable, here are my suggestions, the real things that I used when I had my daughter.

Continue reading

Signs of Spring: Baby’s Trees

Things appear to be warming up here in Connecticut, although we have had two other false starts followed by light snow storms so far!

My chives have started popping up, along with a few other miscellaneous plants. One of the most exciting plants to see spreading it’s sleepy green leaves open to the sun this spring is our Hickory trees!

image

My husband had the great idea to plant a tree for the birth of each of our children, our first of which is due in 10 weeks. Early on in my pregnancy, we went hiking and found seeds and saplings that we took and planted in the hopes that they would take. We are happy to report that all of them have buds &/or leaves at this point, and are doing good! I hope they continue to thrive indoors, as it will be awhile before we will have a place for them to go.