Archive for June, 2010

Summer Homestead stories


Ever since I was a little girl I have always enjoyed roses. Over the years and as my tastes have changed I find myself drawn more to the antique rose varieties than anything else. I love their fragrance and the look of them reminds me of quite days lived in country castles. I have dozens of David Austen roses around my place and during July they burst into bloom with an intoxicating perfume that hangs over the whole garden. The garden as a whole keeps use pretty busy during July. The weather is hotter and keeping things moist is a daily challenge. But, it’s also a time of great reward. Seeds and transplants started earlier in the year now bear constantly.

First tomatoes come off around Fourth of July
More direct sown seeds planted
Water daily
Weed and mulch as needed
Spent veggies fed to chickens
Mid-season berries picked, eaten fresh and frozen for winter
Peach harvest continues
Peaches canned and frozen
Beans canned and frozen
Pickled beets canned
Herbs dried
Preparations made and animals groomed for State Fair
Attend and show at State Fair


Our family has shown at the county fair for more than 30-years. Now it’s Brianne’s turn. She loves hanging out in the barn visiting with friends while grooming her sheep. I love watching her grow with each passing year. She and her friends are fiercely competitive inside the show ring, but outside they are just a bunch of giggly silly teenagers. It’s so much fun to watch. August is a hard time to be away from the homestead, so much is going on this month. But, I have wonderful neighbors who feed animals and water gardens. Secretly, I think they like when we’re gone because they get paid in free range eggs and fresh produce.

Weeding and watering are our life
Tomatoes harvested daily; frozen for future processing
Other veggies harvested; what can’t be processed is frozen for later time
Onions braided and hung to dry
Fruit trees and berries fed
Turkeys butchered and wrapped for freezer
Preparations made and animals groomed for County Fair
Attend and show at County Fair
Left over fair lambs sold or butchered
Broiler chicks arrive end of month


With fairs over and prizes displayed, our mind turns to school. Brianne actually starts school the last week of August, but with our busy schedule we are never prepared. The bulk of the shopping takes place on Labor Day weekend – usually the hottest weekend of the month. The homestead seems quiet this time of year, with most of the animals gone. Only the broiler chickens remain, but they are easy to care for. The garden seems to rebound in September, as late spring and summer plantings come off, fall plantings of onions, garlic and root vegetables take their place. We even get a glimpse of our future squash and pumpkin harvest.

Dried beans harvested, vines given to chickens
Zucchini, patty pan, crookneck and other squash harvested
Zucchini relish canned
Broilers butchered at 4-weeks (Cornish game hen size)
Lay in firewood for a warm winter
Clean trailer and store for winter; bedding used in chicken coop as winter bedding
All livestock equipment cleaned, oiled and stored for winter
Shearing blades sent to be re-sharpened
Show blankets repaired and stored

Creative Commons License photo credit: andrewodom

Stealing the Day

Monday, June 21, 2010


I feel like I have stolen this day. I took off from work, so instead of the usual morning routine I really took my time with farm chores this morning. Nothing grand, just a few extra moments to check over the animals, water the plants on the porch and brew a pot of fresh tea, which I just pulled off the stove burbling and gerking as I pour it into the teapot. Oh, it’s shear decadence for an office farmer to have a day off work.

Moments ago, when I walked outside, the grass was damp from the early morning fog. In spite of its sogginess, the sun was out; the sky was a clear blue and bounced off every tiny droplet. I breathed deep, taking it all in, savoring the taste. It’s hard to feel Zen though when sheep are baaing, hens are cackling, dogs are barking and a lone rabbit is racing around in his hutch. They all want breakfast and they all want it now. You can see how that moment wasn’t quite serene. But, it was to me.

Brianne and I started our morning chores like we always do, in the sheep pen. They are the most eager and can cause the most trouble if not fed promptly, so off she went to fill grain buckets, top off the water trough and throw a few handfuls of hay. I fed and checked on the dogs then moved towards the chicken coop to make sure we hadn’t lost anyone in the night. With the headcount complete I lifted the latch on the gate and let the hens out into the barn. From there they can make their way into the garden and around the yard.

Every day we let the hens out of their coop, and give them a chance to feel the warm sun, scratch in the dirt looking for bugs and peck at the green grass. They’re sneaky beasts though. Clever enough to fly over fences and too curious to stay out of the garden, so I keep them away from the lettuce just to give myself peace of mind.

A load of laundry I washed last night is ready to hang on the line. The sun was barely over the tree tops as I clipped each piece of clothing to the line. Laundry is an oddly calming job, almost therapeutic.

By the time we came inside I felt oddly refreshed from our slow morning of chores.

Our weekend mostly involved transporting sheep (Brianne was involved with a showmanship workshop) and June gardening.

I’ve come to the conclusion that “June gardening” is just a romantic way of saying weeding. I spent hours down on my hands and knees pulling intruders from between the rows. This year’s garden started out to be the most diverse we’ve ever attempted, and we have the weeds to show for it, but we haven’t been without our troubles. And, the only things that seem to be thriving in the garden are the rabbits and squirrels. Our verdant young peach tree that was loaded has now been stripped bare. Not one peach is left. Oh, a few pits clung to the branches, but nothing that’s edible for us. I don’t mind part of my crops going to the wildlife, but when they get greedy that’s another matter entirely.

This is a strange place to be a homesteader. I have never lived or worked with so many people that stand on both sides of the farming fence. Nearly half my neighbors grow their own, while the other half has no use for gardening at all. I’m sometimes a telephone farmer as well. Just yesterday, my neighbor Fran called to talk about the new chicks we had given her and how they were too timid to go inside the coop, so spent the night under the ramp that leads to the coop. Seems like everyone’s working for their supper these days.

As I type things are pretty quiet outside, which is a rare occurrence. Their mouths must be full. From the kitchen door I can see the roosters strut around the yard guarding his girls. I see the sheep frolicking and chasing each other in their fenced yard. I know the rabbit is content and the dogs are napping after their morning meal. And me—the Queen of all this majesty¬—am enjoying a cup of tea smooth enough to calm any savage beast.

Not a bad way to start a stolen day. Not bad at all.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Nate Kay

I am a Homebody

Friday, June 18, 2010

The past few weeks have been crazy busy with end of school finals, stock up trips and of course last months holiday. When life gets like this, and I’m away from my little homestead all I can think about is getting back to the quiet and peace of my oasis. Its times like these that make me realize – I am a homebody. I like the comfort of my homestead. Outside the sun is gleaming, the birds are singing and there’s a soft, cool breeze blowing that makes me want to snuggle up in a hammock with an old quilt, a glass of tea and a good book. Spring wants to linger here a while longer and we welcome her with open arms. Always.

Here on my homestead, in my little farmhouse, laundry hangs on the line. Fresh cut flowers adorn my tables and the scent of home cooked banana bread seasons the air. Autumn is far off and although we love the roaring fires that warm our home and the glint of candles that light up the dark corners of our rooms we are content with the months that allow us to dig in the dirt long into the evening.

Outside my window the sheep laze in the shade and chew their cuds, while the chickens send up clouds of brown dust while bathing in the soft dirt. The dogs, ever vigilant, are on the prowl for rabbits and squirrels that have been damaging the garden. Well fed and content, the animals make me feel even more comfortable. Come dinner time we will be well fed too. Home raised lamb thaws on the counter. Later tonight it will be sizzling on the grill along with fresh zucchini, onions and potatoes. A fine meal to be sure. After evening rounds and a blazing western sunset – I am ready for bed too. It’s because I am a homebody that I am happy to be tucked away in my little walled garden, away from the hectic outside world.

Cool damp fog hung for most of the morning, leaving the homestead looking like some mystical forest in a far-away land. It seemed gloomy. But, the only animal on the farm that seemed to feel it was me. The cool morning seemed to invigorate the livestock. The sheep raced and jumped in their corral. The chickens scurried and clucked as they found tidbits of grain on the barn floor.

I spent the cool morning weeding and planting winter squash and sunflowers to brighten our tables or give as gifts. Sunflowers make me happy. They remind me of fall, my favorite season. The mixture of seeds, black, striped, large and small, lay in a bed of soil rich in our rabbits’ leavings and our chickens’ old meals. In a few weeks they will have pushed through the soil, reaching for the sun and we’ll be on our way to having yellow lion, burgundy and gold in our vases. Sunflowers mean we’re that much closer to fall.

When the fog burned off and the temperature began to rise, making the weeding and planting too much of an effort I came inside to make the salad for tonight’s grilled dinner. The house smelled of honey-maple bacon and fresh cut broccoli when I went out to collect another batch of eggs. Here the work seems never ending (and it is) but it flows through our days as normal and steady as commuting to work or going to school does. It’s a common mean to a common goal.

Not everything is faultless here. I paint a picture of perfection, but only because I ignore the things that make homesteading so hard. I cheat hardship with ignorance. But know my body is always sore and sometimes I feel like I’m the most tired mom in America.

We rise before 6:00 most mornings, and sometimes don’t come inside for dinner till way after dusk (that’s 8:30 this time of year). When we shower at the end of a long day the damage of our life is evident. Brianne is bumped and bruised from working her lambs; there are cuts and scrapes from battles with fencing; blisters from hoeing or turning over another bed; bug bites and bad tan lines. Yah – really bad tan lines. Our homestead, as humble as it is, is a full time job. And it shares its life with people who already have a full time job, whether it be work or school. Its work and it’s hard. I’m not sure we should be envied or that people should live vicariously through us. Just a considerate warning.

BUT, I feel the same way about the dark side of this homestead as I do about learning any new skill. You pick it up for the first time and it sucks. You’re not good, the timing is off or your lines are not straight. Your muscles ache and your fingers throb. You get angry and frustrated. The learning comes slow, slower than you wish. But, at the end, when it’s over, you know there is the possibility of a finished product. You’ve seen it before, and know the appreciation it can render. So you shrug off the pain, forget about the bad things, and keep moving forward. Which, is what we do with every scar and sore arm. Collateral damage.

Creative Commons License photo credit: lisa cee

Gadzukes… Zucchini’s!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Zucchini is a delicious and simple addition to any garden. They are very common in many gardens because they are beautiful, so easy to grow and prolific. But, these garden staples can produce too much of a good thing.

If you suffer from “what to do with all these zucks”, try this simple relish recipe and put a lid on all those zucks. This recipe was given to me by my mother-in-law and has been a staple in our pantry for years. It makes a great substitute for sweet pickle relish on hamburgers and hotdogs and is the main ingredient in our homemade Thousand Island dressing.

Zucchini Relish

10 cups – grated zucchini
4 cups – grated yellow onion
5 Tbsp – salt
1 each – grated red and green bell pepper
3 cups – sugar
2 Tsp – dry mustard
3 Tsp – turmeric
2 Tbsp – cornstarch
2 Tsp – celery seed
½ Tsp – pepper
2-1/2 cups – cider vinegar
2 small jars – pimiento

Mix grated zucchini, onion and salt. Let stand overnight.

Rinse and drain. Place in large stock pot. Add red and green peppers, sugar, mustard, turmeric, cornstarch celery seeds, pepper and vinegar. Cook on low to medium heat until thick, stirring constantly, about 5-minutes. Do not over-cook. Ladle into sterilized, hot jars and seal immediately. Makes about 6 pints.

Creative Commons License photo credit: seelensturm

Rebeccas farm

Wildlife filmmaker Rebecca Hosking investigates how to transform her family’s farm in Devon into a low energy farm for the future, and discovers that nature holds the key.

With her father close to retirement, Rebecca returns to her family’s wildlife-friendly farm in Devon, to become the next generation to farm the land. But last year’s high fuel prices were a wake-up call for Rebecca. Realizing that all food production in the UK is completely dependent on abundant cheap fossil fuel, particularly oil, she sets out to discover just how secure this oil supply is.

Alarmed by the answers, she explores ways of farming without using fossil fuel. With the help of pioneering farmers and growers, Rebecca learns that it is actually nature that holds the key to farming in a low-energy future.

To watch how she transforms her family farm click here.

Growing Winter Squash

Friday, June 11, 2010

winter squash

Learn how to plant, grow, harvest and store a variety of winter squash

The lazy days of summer in full swing, and winter is so far off we don’t even want to think about it. But, if butternut, acorn or dumpling squash are on your list of winter staples you have to think about winter and now.

June is prime winter squash planting season and with these helpful tips about planting, harvesting and storing you’ll be enjoying squash all during the long cold winter.

More here.

Creative Commons License photo credit: SteffanyF!

Let the Money Games Begin

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

40 Ways to Help You Reduce Your Expenses
and Increase Your Bankable Cash NOW!

If your financial situation is less than optimal or if the current economy is causing you a certain amount of concern, that isn’t a bad thing. The less content you are with your finances the more likely you are to be motivated to do something about them. So, get mad, act quickly and score fast cash with these easy to implement money saving tips. Read the rest of the story »

All done with laundry
Getting ready to start your journey to simpler life? Looking for the steps and motivation to help your get started? We can help you get the job done.

We all know that the closets in our home don’t hold just clothes, toys, and stuff; they hold our memories and our history; a timeline of our children’s school years, the evolution of careers and the progression of hobbies. But what if I told you that cleaning and organizing those closets can be much less stressful than you think, and that you can actually do some good by passing your unneeded items to people who really need them? By following these five simple steps, which work for any kind of organizing project, you can liberate yourself from the chaos of clutter and take one giant step toward your simpler life. Read the rest of the story »

Farm Census

Saturday, June 5, 2010

I was thinking about the census the other day, and thought it would be interesting (for you all) to read a census of my little homestead. I’m a huge proponent of doing what you can where you can. No matter how big or how small you think you’re place is there is always room for a bit of self-sufficiency.

Homestead Census 2010

5 – lambs
18 – chickens
1 – rabbit
6 – blueberries
7 – berries (1 black, 1 Logan, 1 red rasp, 4 yellow rasp)
6 – fruit trees
8 – 4’x8’ raised veggie beds
3 – 8’x10’ raised beds
2 – mangy mutts (just kidding)
1 – active kid, and
1 – tired mom

homemade ice cream
I don’t know about you folks, but financial crisis or not, chores or not, homesteading or not, I gotta have my creamy dessert – preferably fresh made – and I don’t want to wait long to get it either. If you suffer from this same affliction have I got news for you…

…super quick, super easy and super fresh made ice cream from your very own kitchen. There’s no complicated recipe to follow. No fancy ice cream maker needed. Just a few ingredients and a glass pan is all you need, then you too can dive into your own creamy creation.

Here’s the recipe.

Blender Ice-Cream

5-cups fresh strawberries, sliced OR 24 ounces frozen strawberries
½ cup sugar
1 ½ cups heavy cream

If using frozen berries take out and let stand about 20 minutes so you can slice them.

In a blender, combine berries and sugar, stopping several times to stir and make sure berries are finely chopped.

Slowly add cream while blending, stopping a few times to stir, until thick

Pour mixture into a shallow glass pan (about 9”x13”x2”) and freeze for about an hour, or until it’s scoopable. To use later, freeze solid, then remove from freezer and let stand for about 15 minutes to soften and become scoopable. Can be stored in the freezer for up to one month in an airtight container.

Can’t wait an hour for the mixture to freeze? Not to worry.

This ice cream will send you to the moon it’s so easy. Imagine – ice cream in seconds!

I discovered it purely by accident. Wanting a dessert of berries and cream, but not having any fresh berries on hand, I poured half-and-half over a bowl of frozen raspberries. The milk didn’t pool in the bottom of the bowl, but coated and froze to the berries, top to toe, completely covering them in a luscious frozen creamy snow.

Frozen Berries and Cream

¼ cup half-and-half
1 cup frozen berries (raspberries and blueberries work best)

Place berries in a bowl. Pour cream over the top. Gently stir to coat. Enjoy!

Now you can have homemade ice cream faster than it takes to run to the ice cream parlor and back. And, you’ll be avoiding the expense and the unwanted funky chemicals that are in commercially made ice cream. Plus, it tastes so much better.

Once you’ve mastered the, oh so difficult recipes above, experiment with your favorite berries or other kinds of fruit. Summer’s just around the corner and trees and canes and vines will soon be bursting. So get creative folks! And enjoy those lazy summer dazes with your own creamy delights.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Rain Rabbit