Category Archives:Gardening

New Year Homesteading Resolutions

With only two days left of 2017, my reflection on the year and my resolutions are more focused on improving my homestead (and in turn, improving myself).

Here are a few of the things we want to improve:

 

The Garden

2017: This past year we built garden beds with cinder blocks . This worked out great for weeding, and was much more manageable than when we had our garden at ground level. However, with our pasture being overgrown right in the area of our raised beds, it was a lot of work mowing between the  beds and getting close enough to get most of the grasses cut was a pain.

2018: We plan to mulch between the beds so we don’t have to mow; and instead of fencing off each bed individually (to protect our plants from the chickens), we will fence off the entire perimeter. And we will add an extra bed this year for corn.

 The Goats

2017: Last year we acquired two meat goats. One we lost to a respiratory infection; the other we had to butcher about 2 months sooner than we would have due to goats being herding animals. We also believe the goats we got were cross breeds so they did not grow as much as we anticipated.

2018: I would like to pursue breeding our own meat goats, which would require a larger flock and winter quarters.  Currently we have a three-sided lean-to that at least kept the goats out of inclement weather. We also would not be able to rely on just pasture for the winter months so we would need to budget for food rations. In the meantime, I think we will definitely get at least two more meat goats for 2018.

The Chickens

2017: I went through about a month period where I thought my girls weren’t laying. Unfortunately this winter, cleaning out the garden bed around their coop, Fendi found a stash of eggs (maybe 12) that I hadn’t found. My girls were inconsistent not only with laying in their nesting boxes but also with where they were laying outside the coop.

2018: I’m hoping my girls will start laying again at the end of January like they did last year. In order to keep them laying in the nesting boxes, I’m going to try getting wooden or ceramic eggs to keep in each box. I think I will also put rubber matting of some sort in the bottom of their nesting boxes to see if that helps with cleaning.

The Harvest

2017: We discovered a few things growing on our property that we did not plant. We have two large patches of asparagus that I did some harvesting on, but the weeds were quite difficult to control in the summer. Also we have a lot of wild grape vines (not producing fruit) that spread all over the asparagus “beds”, these were also hard to control and keep from snuffing out the asparagus. In that same area is an older Elderberry bush that we didn’t know was there.  The fruit trees in our yard bloomed this year (they didn’t the previous year), and it turns out they are apple trees! We didn’t really get out to harvest them although I’m sure they would have made great baking apples.

2018: I plan on harvesting the asparagus again this year, and maybe move a few of the plants to a more containable area for weed control. If we can get to the Elderberries before the birds and wild animals, we hopefully will get a larger harvest for either jam or syrup. If the apple trees bloom again (we are thinking they are an every other year breed), then I will be sure to get out and pick apples. With the increase in raised garden bed space, I’m hoping we get a bit larger harvest in things we use more often (last year we had quite a few more peppers than we needed and not as many tomatoes as we would have liked to do some canning. And canning more of my harvest is something I really want to work on in 2018.

What are your homesteading resolutions for 2018? Comment below!

Raised garden beds

I have been writing a lot about baking, so now it’s time to move out of the house and into the garden!

Last year we thought it convenient to plant our garden in the plot that was already there. Unfortunately, there were several unforeseen issues with this area.

  1. Half of the garden is shaded by two trees- which provided an excellent roof over our corn for a herd of deer.
  2. The weeds were hard to control in such a large plot
  3. We weren’t able to harvest the full extent of our plants (again due to poor lighting)- our peppers didn’t even come in until late fall, and weren’t even mature before the frost.

This year we decided to fix these issues with the use of raised garden beds placed in our pasture where our sunlight is not blocked.

We bought cinder blocks at $1.16 a piece, and placed them in 4X5 rectangles. To help control the weeds and prairie grass from the pasture, we filled the bottom of each bed with 2-4 layers of cardboard. (In hind sight: we aren’t sure if the cardboard was too thick for our plants to really take root and grow faster) We do get some prairie grasses that come up along the edges, but they are much easier to pluck out.

Sifting dirt from an old burn pile (previous people burned garbage so there are many rusty nails and metal bits that we needed to get out), we filled our beds with the dirt, composted food, and chicken manure. My son thinks the dirt should be in the holes of the blocks too so he usually transfers some from the garden.

My lovely chickens had a mind of their own to check out the gardens. They ended up destroying our first set of tomatoes. We also believe that they spread and/or ate our watermelon and cucumber seeds as well. So we put up plastic fences keeping them at bay that will be removed once our plants are out of danger from chicken scratching.

For our growing cucumbers, we rigged up a trellis of twine, and T-posts.

Excited to see what our garden gives us this year! Happy gardening and harvesting!

 

Tomatoes
Beans
Peppers

Beginning a natural windbreaker

The 2016-2017 winter season in the Midwest was very mild compared to past seasons. You can’t beat 60 degrees in March!  When we did get those showers, we had a snow dune landscape that was beautifully annoying.

The dreary graveyard of corn stalks to our west left our driveway unprotected from the cold blowing winds.

And even though the extra steps helped me reach my Fitbit goals faster, the strength and effort required for breaking through the frozen tundra was tiring.

Solution: we need a windbreak along the driveway!

And what better way to make a windbreak , than to propagate those bushes !

So now in March I clipped some of the canes (aka- branches) that had a green core and some starting buds.

Using our food compost mixed with droppings from our lovely chickens, we placed them in plastic planters.

This coming winter, we know our windbreaker may not be grown enough to stop the rolling sea of snow, but maybe within 2 years we will have our natural snow fence.

Spring is coming, time to get ready!

Spring is right around the corner! Only 4 more days until the official start of spring, so this means it’s time to get our gardening butts in gear.

Last year we didn’t get the harvesting/yield we had envisioned. With our baby just being born- he turns 1 next month, AHH!- and not knowing where the sun would be best on our new property, we just didn’t have it all together. Also, the cucumber seeds went rogue slipping down between the refrigerator and the counter.

Our corn was made into a bed for some deer during a thunderstorm.

Half of the garden was shaded by two trees and the weeds were out of control most of the year. So new plans are in place to optimize our harvest. We have designated a place in our pasture for 4 raised garden beds, and we are also getting 6 grapevines that will be in the same area.

Plenty of sunshine to go around out there!

Our seeds came in the mail early this week from Seeds Savers Exchange. We selected this company because they support heirloom and heritage breeds that seeds can be harvested and replanted. http://www.seedsavers.org/mission.

Our selection this year consists of: Federle tomatoes (1st generation and 2nd generation that we harvested last year), Ausilio Thin Skin Italian peppers, Blacktail Mountain watermelon, Hubbard squash, Red Swan beans, Ireland Creek Annie beans, and -the most exciting- True Lemon cucumbers. Everything but the tomatoes and peppers are direct sow and won’t be started indoors.

The set up we have is a wire rack, plastic planters, seed starting heat pad, and a hanging compact fluorescent grow light that can be lowered or raised for plant height. Until the plants are ready to move outside, they reside in an upstairs bedroom (that needs renovation).

New updates to come as we continue working on our little homestead!