Out here in Oregon, I enjoy the rough-hewn life of a modern homesteader and mountain woman, weaving outdoor adventures into the fabric of everyday living. Whether tending this McKenzie River homestead hearth or a campfire up in the mountains, I find great enjoyment in the work of a self-sufficient life. Gather around as I share my tales of camping, cooking, hiking, handcrafting, wildcrafting, canning, growing food, keeping chickens, and raising twin children. It is my hope to share some ideas and inspiration with other folks, to strengthen our connections with the land and wild places.
Life is a work in progress, and mine has been no exception these last few weeks. There are many projects we are in the middle of around the homestead, and while waiting for one to be completed that I could write a post about, I realized I haven't been writing any posts. Since everything is always a work in progress anyway, I decided to go ahead and show off some of my works in progress. The most showy of them all is the glass window greenhouse. We started on it last March, and have been picking away ever since. It still needs benches, a small raised bed, a brick floor and a few cracks shimmed. I am looking forward to getting early spring greens going and starting all our seedlings in a proper locale this year.
We did some major limbing and took out a couple problem trees this fall, and pretty much just left the piles sitting there in our yard. We have slowly started burning piles of limbs and setting aside a pile for wood chipping. There are also logs to cut up for firewood and save for a cordwood structure, so that will be many weekends of work ahead of us. The good news is, we now have a lot more light and less worry when big windstorms come through.
Here is more of the tree work ahead of us. Most of what we took down is cedar and redwood, which we plan to build a little cordwood shelter out of right at the top of this little hill where the green chairs are sitting. It will make a fine hangout spot to rest in when we're done with all this work at the end of the day!
Here we have a section of fence we need to take out with a T-post puller, and repurpose to another part of our property. I'm hoping to get some wild roses and elderberries planted on the hillside where the fence was for backyard wildcrafting.
We started pruning the fruit trees and are about halfway done with them. Once they're finished, we can move on to the grapes, raspberries, blueberries and marionberries. Pruning is one of those projects that is cyclical by nature, where getting it "done" only lasts for a year.
And, those grapes...
This strawberry bed is going to be moved and a new chicken coop built in it's place. Our chicken coop situation is proving to be just too far from the house, and too close to the edge of the woods. It's a long ways to go in the dark to put them in at night, and we can't really keep a good eye on them, which has resulted in the loss of a few chickens recently.
The really exciting part of this chicken coop involves taking out our crooked garden fence and replacing it with a chicken moat around the perimeter of the garden. If you are wondering what the heck a chicken moat is, you can read about them here: Construct a Chicken Moat for Effective Garden Pest Control. There will also be a door going out the fence around the yard so the chickens can still free range along the driveway when they aren't eating bugs around the garden.
Among other projects in the works is the mud pit outside our back door that is going to become a brick patio around the campfire pit. My grandpa saved all the bricks from a hearth and chimney demo in one of the houses they lived in, chipped the mortar off of every single brick and hauled them with him when they moved. Before he passed away last winter, I told him I would take his bricks home and use them in a project, so we brought them back from Washington and will soon put them to good use.
I will call this final work in progress "Where the Sidewalk Ends" in honor of Shel Silverstein and the unending nature of homestead projects. I saved an old wooden ladder that we are going to make into the top of an arbor here for a wisteria. Little by little I am trying to get my flower gardens going, but it takes a backseat to growing things we can eat.
So there you have it; the good, the bad, and the ugly. Hopefully I will have some finished projects to write about soon, but in the meantime, you know what I'll be up to...for the rest of my life!
“And now let us believe in a long year that is given to us, new,
untouched, full of things that have never been, full of work that has
never been done, full of tasks, claims, and demands; and let us see that
we learn to take it without letting fall too much of what it has to
bestow upon those who demand of it necessary, serious, and great
I have always liked the Winter Solstice tradition of decorating a tree outside with various treats for the birds, but this time of year always gets busier than expected and I decided that just making some birdseed suet ornaments was the next best thing. My son has a real affinity for birds, so he was all on board for this project.
I had some lard I had rendered a while ago in the freezer, and a big bag
of birdseed, so I found a recipe on Pinterest and went to work on it. I added dried raisins from our grapevines for the fruit and some raw unsalted peanuts in our pantry.
We got an assorted bag of cookie cutters at the thrift store, and spread them out on a parchment lined cookie sheet with just twine taped on for the hangers. We experimented with drilling holes in the tops of the plastic ones to put the jute hangers through, but it really didn't end up make a difference as to how set in the middle of the suet they were.
Whatever didn't fit in the cookie cutters, I poured in a parchment lined baking dish to cut up for our square suet feeder. The consistency came out a little softer at room temperature than I was expecting, but I figure it will be cold outside where these are hanging up, and extras can be stored in the freezer.
We had a lot of fun making them, and will enjoy watching the wildlife eat them, so these ornaments are definitely not just for the birds!
Much to our surprise, this is what we woke up to Sunday morning. We got zero snow last year, so this made the surprise all the more wonderful. I had a chocolate truffle making fundraiser for my kids class to work on in town, but I managed to get out in the yards and capture a few photos of the winter wonderland before I left. My son got to stay home and play in the snow, so I was greeted by a snowman in the front yard when I came home.
The snow was exciting for our family, but some of us were not so sure about the whole thing. Our cats are about 1 1/2 years old and had never seen snow before, but finally ventured out to see what it was all about.
Our yard and woods were completely transformed.
The garden was tucked in under a wintry blanket.
I must say, all of my greenery decorations looked much more snazzy with a white, snowy backdrop behind them.We could definitely use some snow more often.
I loved seeing the hazelnut orchards transformed with white canopies. It almost looked like they sprouted white leaves in the night.
Although winter wonderlands are often short lived in our area, they pack a lot of wonder into that short amount of time. Hopefully there will be more snowy days to come!