A Year in the Life of a Suburban Homestead
I was asked once, how my suburban homestead runs throughout the year. When I first began, I had an annual calendar so I could schedule major farming activities like ordering chicks or planting pumpkins or when DD’s sheep shows were. I never leave anything up to me remembering. Over the years, and with a comfort of the “seasons” of our homestead, I’ve been able to use a monthly calendar. But, we still book sheep shows months in advance, post school events, holidays and ½ days and of course the arrival of baby chicks!
This is a look into our homesteading life.
My suburban homestead is at rest in the winter, not frozen like some areas of the country, but at rest all the same; soaking up nourishment from a steady stream of rain storms that float overhead and a new layer of mulch, warm and thick. But, the gardener in me is not at rest. All during the holiday season my mailbox is filled to overflowing with catalogues of all kinds. Each one announcing the newest, the biggest, the best or the most unusual in seeds, transplants, berries, fruit trees and bulbs. My mind races with all the possibilities. My modest garden layouts explode into grandiose dreams of “what could be”. But, being the sensible person that I am, I stop myself, take a deep breath and reexamine my overall homestead layout. Yes, there will be room for new varieties of seasonal vegetables, maybe even a few new berry bushes here and there, but mine is a suburban homestead bounded in size by block walls and property lines. Restraint is the key.
• Review my overall homestead plan to see what and where new additions can be made
• Check rain barrels and set out when storms are predicted
• Sort through catalogues and prepare seed list
• Order seeds
• Purchase/plant new fruit trees and berries from local vendors
• Plant cool weather crops like peas, lettuce and spinach
• Clean barn in preparation of new lambs; make needed repairs
• Pick up hay and grain for new lambs
• Attend sheep auctions and buy new show lambs
If weather permits, outdoor chores begin in earnest in February. The longer days, with weak rays of sun still shining at 6:00 P.M., are a welcome sight. I am able to walk around the homestead during this dusky time and take note of projects that need to be done. I may even stop and trim a few broken branches or berry bushes along the way. I check the trellises and arbors for storm damage; fencing that has come loose from their posts during the winds and garden borders that have broken or fallen over. February is a time for “getting ready” – for the gardening to come.
• Leaves picked up and mulched in compost bin
• Prune fruit trees, grapes and berries
• Plant onion sets and seeds
• Sheep shows start (2 or 3 weekends a month)
• Lambs wormed
• Organize seed packets as they arrive
• Clean and prep seed starting supplies, replace or add to as needed
• Clean and check rototiller
I have fond childhood memories of March days spent with my dad planting seeds indoors. We would use half-pint milk cartons, collected from school, to start seeds of larger plants like tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash and pumpkins. I can still remember looking through racks and racks of plants at our kitchen window as they reached for the sun. Today, my seed starting is not quite so “elementary”. I use flats of seed cells, recycled pony packs and individual pots. But, the results are the same – a jumpstart on the growing season.
• Start seeds indoors in pots and flats
• Prepare fencing for vine crops
• Plant sweet peas on picket fence
• Replace broken berry cane ties and dug up sprouts
• Till garden beds
• Mulch garden walkways
• Check garden water system; repair or replace as needed
• Fertilize all perennials, fruit trees, grapes and berries
• Use credit card rebate check to stock up on staples like flour, sugar, cornmeal, beans, split peas, rice, pasta, and hygiene products
• Sheep shows continue
• Firewood rack near house moved to woodpile