Archive for the ‘garden’ Category

We had wanted to burn the garden off by now, but with the unseasonably warm, dry weather we don’t want to risk it.  I am hopping for a frost by next week, but I’m not sure Mother Nature is going to comply.

Once we are favored by a nice, hard frost we’ll run a fire through the garden and introduce the chickens to scratch and eat whatever weed seeds remain.  Burning the garden helps accomplish two things, 1. It destroys many of the insect eggs left on the garden plants.  If these remains are just tossed into a cool compost pile, and then spread next year, the eggs can still hatch resulting in a new infestation of last years pest.  2.  It destroys much of the seed dropped by weeds, in our case, crab grass.

We would love to practice no-till gardening next year.  This would prevent the weed seeds deeper in the soil from surfacing.  We’ll need lots of mulch though and unfortunately our county has a miserable municipal mulch program.  Stuart is going up to another county on business several times this winter.  I’m hopeful he will be able to pick up some mulch there.

This week, we put on our handyman hats and fixed the fireplace.  We spent about 100 dollars on supplies (a chimney brush, four poles, firebrick cement, and a cap for the chimney) and spent about three hours on the repairs.  First, we removed part of the damper to access the chimney.  Then we pushed the chimney brush through the opening and added poles to extend it to the top of the chimney.  We scrubbed the entire chimney very well and lots of junk rained down in the fireplace.  After that, Stuart used a small trowel to clear out the smoke box.  Because the former owners had failed to install a chimney cap, birds nested throughout the chimney, filling the smoke box with bird crap and mud.  We nearly filled up the fireplace with all of it- bird skeletons, feathers, dried vegetation and powdered bird crap.  It was disgusting.  After clearing all that mess away, we moistened the fire bricks and applied the fire brick repair mortar to seal cracks and places where the mortar had chipped away.  We had to cure the stuff with a nice hot fire, which we didn’t mind a bit.  There’s nothing better than snuggling up close to a hot fire on a cool fall day.


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Photo Blog


The sunflowers we planted in the spring are almost ready to be picked.  Luckily the birds haven’t found them yet!  For a desktop sized version of this photo please click here

To apply the image to your desktop, right click on the image and choose the “set as desktop background” option.


The forest is quickly overtaking this old corn crib.  It looks as if it’s straining away from the trees to regain it’s freedom.

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The big storm came through last night.  Oddly enough, it split right down the center and the worst went North and South of us.  We still got quite a bit of rain, wind and some pea sized hail.  I think our garden is still intact, at least the berms around the beds show no signs of being washed out.  I really need to buy a rain gauge (or make one) It would be so helpful to know how much we got.  Regardless, we got a good soaking.  The ground is wet through, maybe this will help our ailing well.

Speaking of which… Stuart called the well driver his coworker Bruce recommended and apparently the water table is just too low around here to drive a well.  It looks like we’re going to have to go the expensive route and spend at least fifteen hundred dollars to have one dug.   It’s just such a big expense to pay right up front after purchasing the place.  I’ll bet the people who owned this farmstead before us knew that a new well couldn’t be driven.  They were so quick to offer a new furnace when we sent the report back after the inspection, just so we wouldn’t look into why the water pressure was so low.  And of course, our great Realtor was quick to say that even if something was wrong it was probably just the pump and that would only cost a few hundred bucks to fix… yeah right!  So today’s “How NOT to Homestead” advice is always trust your instincts.  I really felt that checking out the water pressure problem would be important but I was blind sided by the offer of a new furnace.  If I’d followed my gut, we might have gotten the price further reduced or a new well and saved a bundle.

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We planted the south side of the side garden yesterday but its so windy I’m afraid the topsoil and many of the seeds will blow away. I went out and watered in an attempt to hold the soil down but its so dry I’m not sure how much it will help. The loamy sandy solid creates a hydrostatic barrier or something that prevents the water from sinking in well. It will pool on the surface for hours before it’s go down an inch. Its pretty frustrating. The parts of the garden that I double dug have more sand than organic matter and the water just flows right through them but the parts that Stuart tilled have quite a bit of organic and they just don’t seem to take water well. I suppose it will be a good thing in the long run because they’ll hold the water better than the sandier parts. Also, they contain more food for the plants.

The wind is blowing so hard that it’s rattling the windows, I really feel like I’m in Kansas again.

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Stuart put in the fence for the garden almost exclusively by himself this weekend.  He finished it Tuesday and I have to say it looks pretty good.  We could use a few more posts but we can add them later as Stuart cuts down cedar trees in the back half acre.  I tied strips of fabric to the top of the fence to –hopefully- let deer know there’s a fence and not to try bounding through it.  I am also hopeful that their flapping in the wind will scare away rabbits.  I’m double digging the beds so there is essentially a twelve inch layer of cultivated soil (cultivated sand in our case).  We planted heirloom snap peas, Amish Snap from seedsavers.org, yesterday.  I had started two peat trays of them earlier in the spring so we had some early starts.  Actually, they’re not that early as we really should have had them in the ground about three to four weeks ago.  I planted them in the peat cups because they don’t really handle transplanting very well, even with the gentle relocation we gave them they’re a bit wilty this morning.  The hose we inherited with the house finally gave out yesterday afternoon.  I expect that someone ran over it in the winter and they attempted to repair the section with electrical tape. 


Stu is supposed to stop by the store after work and buy a hose.  We talked about it yesterday, but he totally forgot.  I called him to remind him, because I thought he would forget (which of course he did) and he acted like I was so incompetent for not getting it myself.  He didn’t leave me the debit card and there are no local branches of our bank around so I’d like to know exactly what form of currency he’d recommend I use to buy it… barter a few chicks for a 50 ft hose?  We may have moved to the country but we haven’t traveled back in time.

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Every article about homesteading states in no uncertain terms that it’s really best to ease into the lifestyle; that getting too many animals at once, starting too big a garden is just a recipe for disaster.  And every would-be homesteader reads this well founded advice and agrees wholeheartedly that it applies to everyone but themselves.  I was no exception, but now as the twenty nine chicks rattle around my front porch in a plastic kiddy swimming pool, I begin to see the wisdom in this advice. 

Stuart and I bought a mix of twenty five egg laying breed pullets from a hatchery as well as three brahma roosters (three just in case one or two died as chicks) and received a free rare breed chick to boot.  We really didn’t want this many chickens to start out with but we thought that buying from a hatchery was our only option and you must buy at least twenty-five chicks at the same time if they’re to be shipped any distance.  About a week after we ordered our flock, we went to a feed store to buy the requisite heat lamp, feeder and waterer.  Much to our surprise we found they had chicks (Brahmas, egg layer mixes and banties) for sale too, with a minimum purchase of five.  It would have been much simpler to buy five or six to start out with, but we didn’t realize this was an option.  So now we have a mess of chickens and will likely have more eggs than we will know what to do with, unless the raccoons or feral dogs get to them first which is entirely possible.


Then there is the garden.  We gleefully ordered seeds from seedsavers.org imagining our massive perfect garden.  Now looking at our half shaded two acres it’s clear that we don’t have a good place for a big garden at all.  The one place that would have worked in a pinch was the front of the side yard, but it’s a remnant prairie and I can’t ask Stu to plow it up.  A little farther back is about half sun, the largest portion of sun being in the afternoon.  We’re going to plant the melons, zucchini, peas and beans there and the amaranth, corn, and sunflowers, up in front of the house where it’s sunny.  We already planted an apple tree, rhubarb, asparagus and strawberries in the front.  They’re doing well so far but it’s kind of depressing not to have one spot that’s just food garden.  I think that breaking the garden up like this might make more work later on and will leave the unfenced front garden open to rabbits and deer.  But it will have to work because it’s what we can do at the moment. 

The problem with buying an old farm house just before spring is that there are so many projects that need to be finished on the house itself that it leaves little time for gardening or tending livestock.  In our case there are bird nests in the eaves, a well that needs redrilling, windows that need screens, basement concrete that needs patching and a myriad of other things.  Not to mention boxes that need unpacking.  I really feel stressed sometimes and I wish I would have waited on the chickens.  We don’t even have a proper coop built for them yet…


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