Spring 2018

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!

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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!

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Beekeeping
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.

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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.

 

Chickens
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!

 

Pantry
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.

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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.

 

2018 Recap
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!

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How to Store Root Vegetables

As part of my deep love for gardening, I have always been interested in how to properly store, process and preserve the bounty of produce we bring in each summer. One method we tried out, with great success, was storing root vegetables in our basement.

Root cellars are fascinating, it’s amazing how well a cool, dark location can extend the shelf life of your produce.  I’ve done a lot of reading on different methods – from building a separate, underground root cellar, to how-to’s for basement storage.  Our basement is below ground, cool, with some moisture, making it ideal for storing. Continue reading “How to Store Root Vegetables”

Harvesting Acorns

One fall activity I look forward to doing every year, is harvesting acorns. We have an abundance of oak trees on our property, and in the surrounding preserve, making these nuts easy to come by. The last two years, we have been blessed with a good, strong bumper crop – something I am sure the deer and wildlife love as much as we do!

We primarily use our acorns for making acorn bitters, an woodland take on Angostura bitters that is tannic, earthy and has a warm nutty flavor all at once. We add them to our fall cocktails, and they are a truly delicious treat! However there are many people out there who also use acorns to make their own acorn flour. Continue reading “Harvesting Acorns”

Composting – An Easy How-To Guide

Composting is a really easy and beneficial practice for any homestead or property. It’s a great way to utilize the inedible portions of fruits or vegetables, as well as scraps and bits that don’t make it into your dish. (For another use for vegetable scraps, check out our post on DIY: Stock!

Your compost pile can be as small or large as you like, and in addition to giving these scraps new life, you are building your very own supply of natural, organic fertilizer! I have been using our own compost as my only form of fertilizer and nutritional support for my garden beds for years now. Continue reading “Composting – An Easy How-To Guide”

Garden Planning Tips

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I absolutely love garden planning, to the point that I tend to start thinking about next year before I’ve even put this year’s garden to bed. I even find myself slightly disappointed in the lack of “work” there is to do in planning these days – I’ve honed in on those tried-and-true varieties, and really gotten the layout of my vegetable bed down to a science. Really, it plans itself nowadays! Continue reading “Garden Planning Tips”

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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