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”

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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”

How to Keep A Garden Journal

I’ve been keeping a garden journal for several years now. Some years were more detailed than others, or I kept more frequent notes, and other years I only jotted down my varietals and a few early weather notes. Since moving to our current property, I’ve “upgraded” my note taking to include all homesteading things: wildlife sightings, chicken and bee keeping notes, gardening, weather, seed starting, and even our canning totals!

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Keeping a log or journal can seem like a daunting task at first – how do you get started? What do you need? I’ve found that over the years my needs have changed, and being open to adapting and changing your format is key to a successful journal.  Continue reading “How to Keep A Garden Journal”

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!

 

The Grass is Greener

Hello all! Today I have some photos to share, an explanation of all the things we have been up to that has kept me from blogging this past month! Not only have we been super busy, but we did also have a pretty bad (but brief, thank goodness) stomach bug go through the house, a month of poison ivy outbreaks that never seemed to end, and I managed to bruise my lungs while we put our fire pit together (yeah, don’t ask). But we’re all back to tip-top shape, and working hard out there.

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Mmmm, radishes!

We are full-speed ahead for Spring here in Woodford. With tons of plants and seeds in the ground, plants ready and waiting and multiple projects going on, the past month or so has been an active blur.

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Our veggie garden (pre-bunny fencing, of course!)

Our work on the hill behind my garden space is complete, and we were able to spread grass seed a little over a week ago. Following that was a full week of rain, but now with two sunny, warm says behind us, everything is dry and the grass seed is exploding into patches of happy green.

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We went to a local nursery as well and picked up some perennials to plant in among the rock formation at the top of the hill, along with some sedum and hostas I had transplanted from other areas of the yard. We plan to add some mulch to finish it off, but it looks so nice already.

Another cute project we accomplished was turning the hollow stump from a tree we cut down near our mailbox into a planter. It’s too cute for words, so here is a picture! Too fun, right? It’s these happy little projects that add the extra smile to your day.

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As far as edibles go, there is a TON going on here! For my birthday, my husband bought me an elderberry plant, which I am just over-the-moon thrilled about!

Our blackberry and raspberry plants are doing really well, growing rapidly each day. After a little mix up, the blueberries we had ordered turned out to be unavailable, but a replacement variety is on its way! The oats are growing and to date, we have four rows of corn down. We have been planting one row each week to stagger our harvest.  I’m worried about last week’s planting, since it did nothing but rain immediately after, but hopefully the seeds are OK and not soggy and rotting. Hm. Only time will tell (or, some inpatient digging about??).

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One of our raspberry plants, looking good!

All our greens (Russian and black magic kale, collards, bok choy, romaine, spring mix and raddichio) are planted and have germinated. As have the carrots, radishes and beets. Our first row of snap peas has peeked through the surface, and I planted the second today. We have 5 rows of corn in now too, although I planted the fifth to replace row-two, because it did nothing but rain the week after we planted it, and nothing has germinated, while later planted rows are peeking through. I’m guessing the original kernels just rotted in the ground. =(

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Our mini cornfield is finally starting to develop. A week of nothing but rain definitely set the corn back.

Herbs are in place, with more en route to us, and oh-my-word, check out this garlic!

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Seriously healthy garlic – these stalks are really chunky! Our best year yet, from the looks of it! Only a few weeks left until it’s harvest time.

Mine of the most exciting things is the emergence of our asparagus! I occasionally scraped aside the mulch to look for crowns that might be peeking through the surface, but never found anything. Then I glanced out the window casually the other day to see a 3″ asparagus! Rushing out to the bed revealed multiple crowns had punched through with others just peeking out. I’m really excited about this, we worked on preparing this bed last year, as this is an investment-style crop. It’s worth all the extra attention and time because a good patch can produce for 20 years or more!

My husband picked up some purple asparagus to try, so we planted that today. It is a little late but I think it should be ok, and since it was an extra for us, and cheap too, it won’t be heartbreaking if they don’t make it, as it would have been with our main patch.

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Our fire pit! We’ve already christened it with the first bonfire of the year.

The only homestead not doing so well is our Mason bees. We received them last week, and opened them up to find several were awake and ready to go. We put the cocoons out and watched the bees crawl around and explore. Unfortunately, we discovered a day or two later that a bird was knocking the sticks and tubes out from the top of the bee house, and nesting in there. We have since remedied the problem, but our nightly checks reveal only one bee in the tubes. I am deeply hoping and praying that more return, but we can only wait. We have discussed bringing in Leafcutter bees this year as well, instead of waiting for next season.

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I started our squashes, gourds, watermelon and pumpkins started. We are so close to Planting Day, I am so excited!!

Our 250-gallon water container is all hooked up as well, and the rain diverter in place. I am excited to see this fill up. If we end up with dry spells between rainfall, it will be great to have this added rainwater storage so help water our gardens.

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Our 250-gallon bin for rain water. My husband installed a spout at the bottom so I can easily hook up a hose and get waterin’! We are going to put up another panel of lattice to hide the view from the yard. 

 

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