Monday, October 24, 2016

Shelter From the Storm

Rainy evenings are the perfect time to curl up in front of the woodstove with a glass of wine and a cat. This is how we hunkered down for the epic storm that did not come two weeks ago, and this is often the reward at the end of a wet weekend day working around the homestead. In between October downpours, we planted garlic and mulched it in, and weeded and mulched half of the garden with leaves. Corey has all of our woodsheds filled and is getting some extra wood stacked and seasoning outside. There were also some regular homeowner responsibilities thrown in there too, like cleaning gutters and the chimney, and straightening up the garage. The new chicken coop plans are mostly drafted and we will break ground on that project as soon as things slow down a little. It's a good feeling getting these things buttoned down for the winter storms to come, and enjoy the shelter of our cozy farmhouse at the end of the day.

And while we're on the subject of shelter from the storm, how about Bob Dylan winning a Nobel Prize in Literature? I didn't really come to appreciate his music and lyrics until I was a young adult, and let's be honest, this may be because his voice took me a while to warm up to, but his words have meant a lot to me over the years. I think it's important that our concept of literature includes poetry that is recorded as music as well as written in books, so I am happy to see him being recognized for his contributions. If you ever need a really good soundtrack for curling up in front of a woodstove for the evening with a glass of wine and a cat, I could not recommend "Blood on the Tracks" highly enough.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Calm Before the Storm

We've got some wild fall weather moving in to the Pacific Northwest, so I thought I would take a moment to appreciate the still, misty mornings and fall color before the leaves fly away.

The big elm tree in our yard is usually the first herald of autumn around here, and the most short-lived. I enjoyed its cheery yellow color while we were out weeding the raised beds and planting the garlic.

The quail coop has been looking fine and fancy in a canopy of red leaves. We're down to two Bobwhite Quail left of the twelve I got four years ago, so I am hoping to get some Japanese quail in the spring and have speckled eggs for a change.

Some of the flowers are still going strong in the garden and I'm appreciating them now because I know that soon there will be plenty of leaves on the ground to mulch the garden for the winter.

Now we just watch the sky and wait. They're making reference to the Columbus Day Storm of 1962, so I think we're in for a wild weekend!

Friday, September 30, 2016

If the Shoe Fits

My latest garden shenanigans have involved planting succulents in old shoes. High heels are one of those things where I really like and appreciate the way they look, but I am just not into wearing them. Ever. So, this way I get to enjoy them without wobbling around and worrying about falling on my face. Yeah for creative DIY solutions!

There are enough various succulents growing around my garden that it's easy to  just pinch a few cuttings off and let them fill in a new spot, or in this case, an old shoe. 

For a while, no shoe around here was safe. Not even my daughter's old, leaky rain boots. I got a chuckle when she came outside one day and said "Hey! You planted things in my boots!"

I also discovered that old wooden ladders leaned up against a building are a great place to display high heeled shoe planters.

It's always fun to try something new gardening, and gardening should really be all about fun. Growing vegetables and feeding yourself is an important endeavor, but so is feeding your soul. This is where the flowers, fairy gardens and shoe planters fit into the scheme of things. This is what it means to be a gardener, and the shoe definitely fits.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Sweet Annie

Sweet Annie (Artemisia annua), otherwise known as sweet sagewort, sweet woodworm, annual mugwort, annual wormwood, and Chinese wormwood, is a deliciously fragrant dried flower you should know about. It is most commonly used in dried flower arrangements and wreaths, but also has some medicinal uses due to high levels of antioxidants and flavonoids. I had experience making decorated bird houses in Girl Scouts at our local Cedarbrook Herb Farm, and later growing and harvesting it when I worked there in college, and that aroma just stuck with me. For some reason, I had a really difficult time tracking it down at local nurseries to grow in my own garden until I finally realized I could just search and order seeds online. Sometimes I forget about all the modern miracles of the the web.

I ordered the seeds from an Etsy shop called Crows Nest Primitive that offered free shipping in a regular envelope, and they germinated very successfully in my glass window greenhouse. This plant is very aptly named. All throughout the summer, every time I would brush by the Sweet Annie on the walkway by the garden, the smell was a real treat.

I test-harvested two bundles already and the house smelled amazing while they were drying, so I am looking forward to harvesting and drying more in the next week. Not to mention all the crafty things I can make with it this winter.

For a little more reading, here's a great article I came across: Annie, Sweet Annie

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

September Happenings Around the Homestead

Fall is a time of change, and as is often the case with change, with it comes good things. As the days get shorter and the nights get colder, trees are ripe with fruit, vegetables are ready to harvest, and wild fruits are ready for the picking.  Gathering it all up can be a lot of work, but it's a fair price to pay for enjoying all the season has to offer. As we head into this busy time on a modern homestead, and in a household with a teacher starting a new school year, I wanted to give a few updates on what's happening this September around the homestead.

Looking around our place, most of the apples, plums and Asian pears have been harvested. The late season Ozette potatoes will be next, and then it will be time to plant garlic. There is probably some weeding I should be doing in the garden, but with a lot of other things on my plate, that can wait. 

One of our biggest changes is having these two start their first day as Freshman at our local high school last week. I watched them walk off down our driveway for their first school bus ride since Kindergarten, and only managed to get this blurry photo before they disappeared around the corner, off on their new adventure. After years of a long commute to the Waldorf School in town, this is a huge change for us. Now that my work is 100% telecommuting from home, and I don't have to drive into town for school, I am looking forward to spending a whole lot more time on our homestead. Granted, I'm busy working so I have to wait until evenings and weekends to actually do homesteading things, but I can still enjoy just being here. My highlight so far was being able to have freshly baked pumpkin oat bars ready for my kids when they got off the bus on their first day of school and ask them about how it all went.

Another change around here is that we finally finished our farmhouse back porch. It took over a year from the time we tore the old rotten one down, but it was totally worth it. I wanted to go for the Victorian farmhouse feel with turned balusters and scrolled brackets, and I think the whole thing really gave the 70's era addition to our 1940's farmhouse some character and vintage flair.  

After a little thrift store scouring, I finally have my back porch rocking chairs for banjo picking in my old age. Life goals realized. I even found a rocking ottoman. Who knew that was actually a thing.

Now everyone has a good spot to put up their feet and rest, which you really need at the end of the day around here.

With the repurposed brick patio project finished, Corey added another woodshed so we would have a stash close to the house. It holds about a cord, and is very conveniently located next to the campfire pit and the back door. We now have three woodsheds, but you really never can have too much firewood.

We also finally finished the arbor at the end of the sidewalk that went to nowhere. Now it feels like an entrance into our yard.

I had some extra turned balusters I had found at a salvaged building supply store when I was searching for deck railing, so we turned them into the top of the arbor to tie in with the Victorian farmhouse theme. I got a really fragrant white honeysuckle training up over it, and by next summer it should be a great hummingbird hangout.

When we have not been busy finishing big homestead projects, we have been harvesting things and putting them up. This year we picked A LOT of apples at our friend's orchard, and made some mighty fine applesauce and many gallons of hard cider.

Usually we do a few different batches with various yeasts and one with ginger, and this year I decided to play around with different herbal flavors like fennel, hawthorne and juniper berries. We also made a small batch with blackberry added that turned out to be delicious. 

We canned a lot of dilly beans, bread and butter pickles, peaches, jams, and jellies. I could probably have canned more things, but hit a point of canning burnout.

We also canned enough corn relish to feed a small army. We like to use it as a side dish, in place of salsa in a lot of meals, and as a zesty addition to salads.

This September is shaping up to be a golden time on the homestead, and I am trying to remember to take a minute out of the busy days to sit back and appreciate it in the midst of everything going on around me.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Keep Your Face to the Sunshine

“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadows. 

It's what the sunflowers do.” 

~Helen Keller