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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

You've got to be ready to strike when the iron is hot

This weekend, my wonderful hubby and I stopped in at our local grocery store on the way to the homestead to pick up some lunch for later that day.  Immediately inside the door, I spotted half pints of blackberries on sale for 67 cents.  I thought the $1 I paid two weeks ago was a spectacular deal!  The more we booted it around, we decided that this is part of what being self-sustainable is about.  We may not be able to grow our own berries yet, but when you find something like that on a super good deal, you have to be prepared to take advantage and stock up.   So we bought five flats!  We saved $2.30 per half pint.  Now that's some power bargain shopping.  They're really good, ripe, tasty berries too.

I wish we had time this past weekend to just make them all into jam.  But alas, the last weekend before Christmas, that just wasn't going to happen.  And I think we're low on jelly jars too. So I washed them all up and got them into the freezer in 6 cups portions.  But first I froze them spread out on trays so that they're individually frozen and not just a big blob.  Now they're ready to be turned into jam or syrup or a cobbler whenever we want.  It helps that we have an extra freezer.  But I really like having things canned, because they won't ruin in the event of a power outage.  And if our previous attempts at making jam are any indication, the blackberry should be pretty darn tootin good too.

We've had tons of rain at the homestead.  I have some pictures, but they're still on the camera.  Our old faithful camera died a month or so ago and we finally replaced it.  But I haven't loaded the driver onto our computer for accessing the pictures off this new one yet. 

We spent the whole day Saturday cleaning up more of the trees we cut down.  Now instead cutting them all up for firewood, we've been cutting them up to be milled (somehow) into boards for projects. Those cedar elms are really beautiful inside and the wood is hard as rocks.  My wonderful woodworking hubby can see all kinds of cool wood projects floating before his eyes, especially when we get to a particularly straight section of tree trunk.  :)  The area where we had the most dead trees was originally where we were considering putting our future house.  Now we think that area will become the orchard.

I guess it had been a while since we've been able to put in a full day of work on the homestead, with the holidays and the rain we've been getting.  We were tired Saturday night and Sunday and had some sore and tight muscles again.  But we've also noticed that we don't get nearly as sore as we used to.  I can only hope that means we're getting stronger. I read that working a chainsaw for an hour burns at about 400 calories...I told hubby I need to work the chainsaw every day!

I'm so excited - I'm going to start  blogging to GRIT magazine.  If you're to the rural and/or self-sufficient lifestyle at all, you've probably heard of it.  Much of this blog will be my first installment with them.  Come take a look sometime. And on another blogging note, I'm going to change the name and URL of this blog just slightly.  It will be wannabepioneer (taking off the word woman at the end).  I've decided it's just too close to the name of that "famous" blogger.  Anywho, I do not know how that will affect any subscibers, so please bear with me.

Oh, and on one last note, the worms overfloweth...well almost.  They have completely maxed out their three-decker worm condo.  We're going to have to sort out some black gold compost and/or put another bin into operation.  Wow we're good worm parents.  :)   And...we've decided to add a second hive of bees in the Spring. 

Until next time, bees rock and worm rule.



Copyright © 2011. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Decisions, decisions

Well Thanksgiving has come and gone too quickly!  Sure enjoyed seeing family members we hardly ever get to see.  And enjoyed the four days off.  Didn't get to spend as much time at our homestead as we would have liked.   Everyone was supposed to come see it on Saturday, but it rained pretty good - not that ANYONE is going to complain about that!   So my wonderful hubby and I went to Academy and bought some rubber boots and went trudging around in our mud.  tee hee hee


We discovered that we finally have some oats coming up in heres and theres.








We also discovered that we have some water in our little tank!






It's been very interesting and educational to see how the water flows on our land after the rains.  In fact, as a result of really studying it, we may have completely changed our minds about where we want to put our house.  Now we're looking at locating it a little further back on our property.  It's actually the highest point and has no drainage issues.  Because of the way the land falls away from there, the house wouldn't be completely exposed to the road either...and we do value our privacy.  It does put us on the back side of the neighbors farm infrastructure - barns, animals pens, etc.  However, we think if we orient the house a little towards the Southeast 1) our view from our front porch will be of the nothing but the pecan orchard across the road, 2) we'll be lined up to see beautiful sunrises from the front porch and sunsets from the back porch, 3) we can build on a carport and garage/shop at the west end of the house that will provide further screening for us and our neighbors and 4) we could feel a noticeable difference in the amount (much less) of the cold north winds that hit us in that location because of the solid line of trees at the back of our property.  We will need to plant some clusters of trees near the fence that will create shade for the west side of the house so that it's not constantly exposed to the hot Texas afternoon summer sun.  A covered back porch will help shade the back side of the house also.  Planting large trees along the fence will provide valuable shading while also keeping a defensible space between us and the trees in a wildfire event.  In adding the carport and garage and porches, we will have a covered space to get all the way from the cars to the house without being exposed to any weather. 

We also think this new location will allow us to someday locate the garden, greenhouses, barn and chicken coop where they are convenient to the house, away from the power lines, out of areas that may have drainage issues, but not right up next to the house.  Well, that's the plan anyway...  J

And...if we really want to move out there when our lease is up, we have got to get. on. the. ball.    We really only have about four more months to get everything lined up and in place and functioning to make that happen.  Yowza!!

As we tromped around the perimeter of the property, we stop and talk to the pecan trees.  We ask them how they're doing and thank them for letting us share their land...for they have been there MUCH longer than we ever will be.  Some may find that odd.  We don't care.  We feel so peaceful and at home there.  We truly value the land and have vowed to be excellent stewards of it.

I think my brain and eyes function as a camera view finder sometimes, because I always see my surroundings framed in potential pictures.  Our camera is dead, so hubby took this one with his phone, but I really would love to see what I could capture with a camera.  I love the colors and textures that all combine here with the fall leaves on the ground in yellow, brown and green and the new grass springing up.




Well, we're supposed to get more rain this weekend.  Yee Haw!!  We'll take it.  Don't know if we'll be able to get much done out on our little slice of heaven.  We'll probably start trying to measure out and stake our future dwellings.  And if nothing else, we probably need to crack the whip on ourselves to get busy on our Christmas gifts.  With Thanksgiving just a memory now, we've only got three more full weeks to get everything accomplished.  YIKES!

Until next time, bees rock and worms still rule.

Copyright © 2011. All rights reserved.

Monday, November 21, 2011

If home is where your heart is...

...then we know exactly where our home is for the holidays!  We so enjoy our time on our little homestead.  This weekend, we even decorated the front gate for Christmas.   It looks awesome.  I would love to find some solar powered Christmas lights to add to it.















We've been cutting up the trees we've felled for firewood that needs to find a home.  But several of the last trees we took down had such beautiful wood inside, my wonderful hubby is now rethinking how we cut up some of the rest of them.  We may cut them into chunks that would make good boards for wood projects.  I knew immediately, of course, that he's going to need a planer added to our tool collection.  :)

We had another little sprinkle of rain last week and the rye grass we planted sure perked up.  We only wish all the bare spots looked like this:











Saturday's work day was pretty tough.  It was in the 80s again and the humidity felt about the same.  I had to keep sitting down with ice packs because my face was beet red and I was getting overheated.  I didn't feel bad, but we've learned that when I start looking like that, if I don't cool back down, I'll be sick the rest of the weekend. 

Here's a picture of me with two our neighbor's horses. 

We gave them some carrots again Saturday - we're gonna be their best friends if we keep that up.  The one in the photo with me is quite the spoiled girl...she'll only eat the bottom third of the carrot (the skinny tender end).  Any other portion she just spits out!  Her "mom" was mortified when we told her.   It was so funny.  Our neighbors, Sarah and Vernon, are just the nicest, kindest people!!  We can't wait to live out there.  It's that kind of kinship and the gracious spirit of folks that appreciate country living that we are looking forward to...folks that understand why you clean your fence lines, learn to grow things, learn to fix things and learn to do for yourself.  They will undoubtedly be a valuable source of info as we get closer to moving out there since they've just done it all over the last five years.

Well, it's Thanksgiving week, and we have so much to be thankful for.  It's been a really tough year for us, but we still have many, many blessings.  Most of all, my wonderful hubby and I have each other, and crazy furry kids.  And our worms.  :)  We positively love our little piece of Texas soil we've been able to purchase and look forward the the many lessons and rewards we will receive through it.

Until next time, wishing your and your family a wonderful Thanksgiving - please take the time to think of all the people and critters that make your lives rich and full...the rest of it is just stuff.

Copyright © 2011. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Last harvest

Well, the Little Garden That Could is pretty well done for the season.  Will be interesting to see what the lettuce and beets do, but without warning, we hit 36 degrees on Friday, November 4th.  That was enough to do in all the plants.  The leaves on the tomato plants that are leaning up against the brick wall of the house are still alive, and the tomato plants are still full of green tomatoes.  It will be interesting to see what, if anything they can do now that the temps are mild and relatively warm again.  We got such a late start, and despite keeping it watered every day, the oppressive heat this year just made everything shut down until the 100+ temperatures finally broke.

Here's a picture of our last harvest...this is actually only about half of it.  Makes a pretty picture though - and HEY the sink isn't full of dishes for a change!  J



Still doing plenty of dead tree clearing on the homestead.  Almost have them all down in our home site location...now to cut into logs and clear the brush/branch debris. 

Had a run in with the neighbor's bull and "his girl"...they were looking for a room - ON OUR PROPERTY!  He only had one thing on his mind and he crashed through the gap in the fence and charged us.  We had to go to some lengths to encourage him to go back from whence he came...ask us about it some time and will tell you our story.  Let's just say you should always be prepared and ready to handle anything that can come your way out in the "wild".  Our little neighbor dog Natty...well she was with us of course and she was a fierce defender twice while dealing with that bull and cow!  Such loyalty from a dog that's not even ours, but boy was she willing to help defend us and our property.

There's a section of fence along that back corner that hasn't been kept up in probably about 50 years.  Needless to say, repairing that section has moved way up on the priority list.  In the meantime, we blockaded the gap with some downed tree trunks and several stray pieces of barbed wire that were lying around (why would you leave barbed wire laying all over the ground for humans and wildlife to get caught on??!!).  So that little improv repair served several purposes.

Seriously, HAVE to turn off the darn boob tube and computers over the coming weeks and get serious about getting Christmas gifts made.  Only have one finished - the loom knitted scarf for one of my nieces.  (I never did get a picture of that on here...)  Need to get the other one done.  Again, not professional knitting.  But the one that's finished is cute even though it curls...kind of makes it look dainty and feminine...at least that's my story and I'm sticking to it.  It was made with much love...that counts for a lot, doesn't it? J

Well, until next time, worms and bees rule! (And so does Natty for taking our side!!)

Copyright © 2011. All rights reserved.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Full day of work

Well the weather finally allowed us to work a full day without crumpling from heat exhaustion.  We  worked cutting down dead trees most of the day Saturday.  Here are a few pics of our progress:

This is the area we will most likely put a house.  Lots of dead trees, which is VERY unfortunate.  But by clearing them out, we will have a really nice homesite.









Dead tree before - I'm at the end of that rope, ready to encourage the tree to fall the direction we want it to:
Dead tree after - now we need a stump grinder...



After all that tree felling, I mowed down some weeds in the pasture because we're putting out some seed oats to hopefully grow over the winter and start a food plot for the deer.  We weren't out there early enough to see them moving on Saturday, but last weekend, we got there before sunrise and saw them moving across our pasture behind the tank (pond for any non-Texans) dam in the faint morning light (you had to really be looking for the movement).  There were half a dozen of them that took their time crossing our land.  It's been such a tough year for wildlife.  No water and no food.

Pasture before:








And pasture after (now this job did me in for the day - it was pretty warm and even though I had sunscreen and a wide brimmed hat on and drank lots of fluids, I started to overheat; good thing this was at the end of the day):









On Sunday, we did our part for the local economy and I got some coveralls and a pair of boots for working on the homestead!  Now that I've got the proper attire, watch out...I'll really be kicking some ranch work butt now.  :)

We enjoy being out there so much.  We even made a detour on the way home on Thursday, just to walk around a little and enjoy the peace and quiet and the setting sun. We feel so at home there.  Almost from the first time we saw this place it felt like home.  Once we walked the property the first time, we felt as though we belonged and could both totally visualize what it would become with us as it's stewards.  It seemed as though the decks were stacked against us, but in the end, we are so very, very fortunate to be allowed the privilege of becoming a part of this land.  My wonderful hubby likes to say that the health of a land is in direct proportion to the number of the owner's footsteps upon it.

Back at what is now termed the "temporary house", the little garden that could is chugging along.  I picked our very first tomato yesterday!  And some banana peppers and two zucchini.  There are some jalapenos getting close and several purple bell peppers.  I'm not sure how big those bell peppers are supposed to get, so I don't quite know when to pick them.










Aren't those just lovely? 

Well, I guess that's all for now.  I cannot believe that November starts tomorrow.  That means we're three weeks from Thanksgiving and less than two months from Christmas!  Holy cow!

Until next time...worms rule and bees are cool.

Copyright © 2011. All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Furry funny farm

We have the craziest herd of furry kids on the planet!  Kind of like the chicken and the egg debate, we cannot decide if our furry kids come to us a little crazy and that's why they ended up with us, or if they become crazy after they've lived with us.  J

Ellie, the TOTAL middle child (like, I swear, she stole someone's birth order book and took it to heart!), has developed a new habit of taking a toy to bed with her every night.  Once we caught on to this new habit, of course we encourage it!  It's sweet and cute.  We recently got some new toys that are about the size of puppies and they really seem to like them.  I asked my wonderful hubby last night if he thought she was being a predator, bringing a "kill" to bed or if she was being maternal and nurturing.  Without hesitation, he said she was being maternal.  This girl had to survive on her own on the streets for a time before we adopted her.  She was not malnourished when we got her, so I have no doubt that she can hunt and fend for herself. 

But Ellie's also the most gentle and patient with her little sister, Gracie the cat that thinks she's a big dog.  Not that Maggie isn't gentle and patient...in any OTHER situation.  But when Gracie comes along and just rubs up against her, as cats are wont to do, Maggie shoots up and across the room, like the big bad eight pound kitty (she does think she's a big dog) is gonna put the hurt on a 75 pound dog.

We've also been finding a pile of toys at the back door every evening when we get home.  That's new, over that last couple of weeks.  What's that all about?

Then there's the shredded magazines when we get home - that's a very old habit.  If you leave an advertising flyer out or a magazine, it's guaranteed to be shredded when we get home.  Before we got Ellie, Maggie had a penchant for eating the covers (only the covers) of books left out.  She then graduated to magazines when we got smart and put all the books up before we leave.  Oh how I would love to install a nanny cam and watch what transpires when we're away.  I'd really like to see how that all plays out.  And make sure it's Maggie even.  She gets blames because of her priors...but who knows who the perp really is...

Gracie loves to "share" mama's pillows.  And I SWEAR to you that she started that the same day I shared a cartoon from Mutts with my hubby where the cat slept on the dad's head.   I accused him of showing her that cartoon!  If she's not there, she's spooning with me...except, like sleeping with any child, she has the tendency to turn crossways rather than laying vertical in line with everyone else.  I told my husband we need a king size bed now just to fit one cat in with us.

In a blast from the past, Gracie jumped up and into one of the bathroom sinks while I was getting ready for work yesterday morning.  She used to lay in them all the time when we lived in Colorado.  Thank goodness there were two sinks so that we still had a functioning one.  In the apartment we were in here, we had a nice sized counter, but only one sink, so she had to adapt to lounging on the counter.  Now we have very little counter, but two sinks again.  She didn't do it again this morning, so we'll see.  She does have to be in the bathroom lying on one of the rugs every morning while we're getting ready for work.  And the dogs all pile up in right outside the bathroom door.

See why I say worms make such wonderful pets?!  They don't hog the bed; they do shred newspaper, but only the stuff we give them; they don't have to go for walks; they're SUPER quiet (although our snow dogs are pretty darn quiet dogs); they don't shed; they don't have to be brushed; and they eat our garbage, not $45/bag food.   There was a great article in Texas Gardener about vermicomposting.  The guy referred to himself as a "worm rancher" because it had a great "Texas" ring to it.  We really like that!  After all, we've always referred to our worms as "The Herd".  We refer to all our kids like that.

I can only imagine what our future chicken are going to act like! 

And OH!  Exciting news - for us anyway!  We advanced ordered our first hive of bees.  They'll be here in April.  That gives us plenty of time to keep attending the Williamson County Beekeepers Association meetings to learn all we can and get our equipment lined up.  Good thing we have Bee Hollow all cleared out at the Homestead.   Before we know it, we'll have a Bee Herd too.  We've been looking at designs for our hive.  Hubby's going to build it of course.  Maybe we can add those to our line of fabulous worm condos.

Here's our crazy cast of characters:

Gracie

Ellie

Maggie










Until next time, our kids are nuts (but we wouldn't have it any other way) and worms still rule.

Copyright © 2011. All rights reserved.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The days are getting shorter

Well, the days are definitely getting shorter...but not much cooler this past week!  It was 90 yesterday and going to be 92 again today.  Ugh!  But a cool front is coming tonight, I think, and tomorrow's high is only supposed to be in the mid 70s.  YAY!!

I am grateful for the long lasting warm weather where the Little Garden That Could is concerned though.  Here's a pic of a few baby tomatoes coming along:






And one of the banana peppers from a week or so ago...they're much bigger now:






Hopefully we'll have enough time to at least enjoy a few fresh grown tomatoes before it gets too cool for them.  The yellow squash are dying off, but there are two zucchini plants still churning out zukes.  One of the plants even came back from the brink of death, and you'd never know it to look at that plant now.

We pretty much finished everything we could on the front fence at the homestead on Saturday.  There were two patches of poison ivy that we couldn't just hack away, so we cleared everything we could and then busted out the sprayer to poison that horrible stuff.   Now we really, really need a chainsaw.  There are so many trees that died this year.  But because of where a big group of them died, once they're cleared out we'll have a really good homesite.  And we need to hook up with someone that wants to cut, chop and haul off some firewood - no sense letting that go to waste.  Somebody we know (or will soon) can use that.

We want SO badly to live out there permanently.  There are so many options that it's overwhelming to figure out how to go about that!  The easiest and fastest solution would be to buy a manufactured house and we're done.  Then we start focusing on barns, chicken coops, greenhouses, etc.  But my wonderful hubby would rather not go that route for a permanent house.  He would really like to build our own.  Don't get me wrong, I would love to do that too.  And I have no doubt whatsoever that we can do that.  We would enjoy the hard work and find intense satisfaction in making that happen - no matter how long it took.  But it becomes really tricky trying to figure out temporary housing in order to be out there and able to work on a permanent house and paying for it all.  What to do, what to do.

Still no water.  I know they've had lots of water line breaks to repair because of the intense drought conditions.  And obviously those must take priority.  But come on guys.  We really, really want/need access to water.  And we didn't just hand you thousands of dollars for nothing!

We may have a new family member soon!  I hate to get my hopes up too much...

Yes that's right, we're trying to bring home a kitten.  She lives out at the warehouse where hubby works.  There's four or more kitties that someone just dumped out there.  The guys in the warehouse pitch in and buy food for them.  They're even going in together to try and take them in to get fixed so they don't just keep creating more feral cats.  The one we want to bring home (we'd take them ALL if we could) is an itty bitty tiny thing.  She is probably the runt, like our dear sweet Sassy was, who passed at age 14 back in February.  Hubby sent me a picture of little Sweet Pea (not her permanent name) and I was head over heels in love!  Hopefully on Friday it will all work out.  It will be chaos for a little while in our house.  Hope spoiled rotten Gracie isn't too horrible!!!!  (Please, please, please)  She was a little kitten needing a home once upon a time.  And at least she started out in a house, not getting dumped at a warehouse and fending for herself until some ultra wonderful guys started trying to help take care of her and her friends.  Please, please, please Gracie Lyn, be sweet.  The dogs won't be a problem at all.  They'll just want to schnoz her for sure and make sure she's okay.  And little Pea will probably be scared to death of big dogs until she realizes they're big marshmallows.   I'll keep you posted on that situation.  Wish us luck!

Worm herd is expanding in fine fashion.  My goodness we are awesome worm parents!   J


Until next time...worms still rule (and so do kittens needing homes!).

Copyright © 2011. All rights reserved.

Monday, October 10, 2011

And the work continues

Well, it was my birthday on Saturday, but we started out just like we have every Saturday since we bought our little homestead...clearing brush!  :)  But I wouldn't have it any other way.  There is nowhere we would rather be than on our little homestead.  And let me tell you - the plotting and scheming is beginning, to figure out how soon we can move out there permanently!!

Here's another look at the before pic:










Here's what we have left - we think we'll have it knocked out next weekend:













And here's what the front fence line looks like now:











We met another neighbor this weekend - the folks that own the Yegua Creek Farms pecan orchard across the road that we admire so much.  He complimented us on our progress on the fence line immediately.  It awesome when you don't have to explain why on earth you would expend all that effort to keep a fence clean...he just gets it!  He welcomed us to the neighborhood and invited us to check them out at the farmer's market in Elgin.  

We've only met two neighbors out there so far, but I tell you, we are already so blessed by their kindness and generosity!  Of course, it's that lifestyle we're seeking and why we're willing to live so far out in the country.

We finally got some rain, glorious rain!  I don't know know how much, but we had a little on Saturday evening and then some more Sunday.  It was so wonderful...it's all people can talk about.  It's kind of funny that it would stir up so much conversation, but we need it so desperately.  We're still about 16 to 20 inches behind for the year.

The little garden that could is doing well.  Three rows of little beets are up, two rows of green onions and three rows of lettuce.  The lettuce is so darn cute, the leaves are only about half an inch long, but they are already starting to take on the shape of loose leaf lettuce.  The banana pepper plants are prolific - will have tons of them ready very soon.  The bell peppers are doing well also.  One plant has peppers that have turned a deep purple.  We've never had those before.  Kind of cool.  The one big tomato plant has tons of blossoms and Saturday I found two baby tomatoes!!  YAY!  We also have one little straggler pepper plant that didn't get marked, so we didn't know what it was.  Turns out it's a jalapeno!  The little plant's got a lot of want to...it's less than a foot tall, but has at least eight jalapenos growing on it.

The worms are doing awesome, doing their thing eating our kitchen garbage.  :)  Won't be much longer before we have to remove some compost for the garden to make room for them.  At least the temperatures are getting nice in the evening so that we can sit out on the back patio and accomplish that task.

I have to admit that I've been kind of disappointed in how few of my friends ever check out my blog.  They seem to want to hear about our land, our gardening efforts and our canning adventures, yet they never take the time to read my posts and check out my pictures.  Not that I ever expected nationwide readership, but I really thought those closest to me would be interested in what's important to me.  My wonderful hubby says that many people aren't in to reading blogs.  I guess that's probably true.  I didn't understand the whole "blog thing" for a long time either.  But I know how much I enjoy and look forward to the blogs I read regularly.  They've in some ways, become like new friends, sharing similar experiences.  But even if I'm not sharing the exact same experiences, I still look forward to reading about their journeys.  Oh well.  I'll keep doing my thing.  It's become important to me and a great outlet to practice my writing/journaling.  And when I receive comments back, I feel like I've won a prize.  Silly I know.  But if something so simple makes me giggle, that's very all right!  And I knowmy wonderful hubby and I will really appreciate it years from now when we can look back at all the progress we've made in our choice to become more self-sufficient.

Until next time...worms still rule.

Copyright © 2011. All rights reserved.

Monday, October 3, 2011

It's hard work, but we wouldn't trade it for anything

Whew!  We're tired.  Recovering from sore muscles again after working on the homestead this weekend.  Holy cow that's hard work, but we wouldn't trade it for anything.  We worked on the front fence line on Saturday.  It was horribly overgrown! I don't think that fence had been maintained since it was installed.   There were a few small trees that will cause huge problems being right in the fence in the future, so they had to go.  And whatever that ultra-thorny vine crud is...my husband calls it Devil's Claw.  We don't know if that's the right name or not, however it is VERY appropriate.  It's everywhere and just rips you to shreds if you're not careful!  They should use that instead of razor wire!  Here are some before and after pics.

Before









After









Here's a couple of pictures of our favorite trees - Texas pecans!



Still discovering muscles I didn't know I had each time we're out there.  J

Hopefully this week they'll start working on installing our water meter!  And if we could only get even a few drops of rain...

In the kitchen this weekend, I made up another batch of black bean, corn and avocado salsa for football watching.  It has become a favorite weekend staple.  My wonderful hubby loves it when I start throwing stuff together and making it up as I go.  It's good with chips, good on burgers, just plain good.  I really love eating potato skins when it's football season...but ever since I had the three week stomach virus this spring, I cannot each potatoes.  It's the weirdest darn thing.  They make me sick to my stomach.  I didn't realize home much I loved potatoes until I couldn't eat them.  That was always a quick standby meal too...pop a potato in the microwave and top it with whatever you can find.  Sigh.  I can eat sweet potatoes still.  Yay!  We found sweet potato fries at Costco, so they are now a staple in our freezer.

Yesterday I made a huge pasta salad for my lunches this week.  Those Lean Cuisine frozen meals are convenient and not very expensive, but I've just gotten burned out on them.  In my pasta salad, I use tri-colored rotini and whatever vegetables I have on hand.  This time it was yellow and zucchini squash fresh from the garden, carrots, baby spinach, artichoke hearts, fresh basil from the window sill and sun dried tomatoes.  Then I make my own Italian dressing - I have a dry mix that I make ahead of time that has garlic powder, onion salt, celery salt, oregano, thyme, basil, rosemary, parsley, salt and pepper (I think that's everything).  I add two tablespoons of that to 2/3 cup of oil (I used 1/3 olive oil and 1/3 walnut oil) and 1/4 cup of vinegar (I used white balsamic vinegar).  I shake it together really well in my salad dressing bottle and toss it with the pasta and veggies.  Finally, I added some rotisserie chicken to my serving for lunch today.  YUM!  It's really good with some crackers.  For dessert I'm having some of our canned peaches.

I also made homemade tortilla soup last night.  It's so fast and easy, but we haven't had it in a long time for some reason.  We've started serving it over brown rice instead of tortilla chips.  It's really good, gives it some substance, works in good for us brown rice and cuts the fat that would be consumed with a bowl full of crushed tortilla chips.  It's so yummy topped with cheese, sliced avocado and sour cream.

And finally, last night I finished the loom-knitted scarf I made for one of my nieces for Christmas.  I even added some yarn fringe to the ends...that was quite an adventure with Gracie the total predator cat sitting in my lap.

Until next time, worms rule.





Copyright © 2011. All rights reserved.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Nothing like good old fashioned work

We spent our first work day out at the homestead on Saturday.  Holy cow we're sore and tired.  Chopping mesquites, weeds and sumac trees (not the poisonous ones!) is hard work and a great upper body work out.  Also very effective for finding small muscle groups you forgot or didn't know existed! 

We cleaned up the front gate that was very overgrown with grass and weeds.  Before and after:


We found this little wagon/cart in Bee Hollow.  It was an adventure pulling it back to the front since the tires were so flat and had been in the same spot for so long that they were almost square.  But because we're so darn cool and believe in the Boy Scout motto "Be Prepared", we had flat fixer in our van and a little air compressor that plugs into the car for power.  We were able to fix those little tires in no time and now we have a handy cart to tow our tools and water around in!

 


Here's one of our new neighbors:

 





And another new neighbor on the other side.  She has escorted us around our property several times, and we found out on Saturday that her name is Whiskey, but we call her Natty because she's nasty - right after this picture, she went and rolled in mud and horse poop...so we think Natty is a better name.











Well, that wraps up our first weekend at the new homestead.  Many more adventures to come!  At the house, our beets and lettuce sprang from the earth after only two days!  No green onions in sight yet.  Lots of little banana peppers coming too.  They are so darn cute.  I can't wait!  And a few bell peppers are also starting to make an appearance.  I've been checking the tomato blooms carefully, watching for that first little one to show up.  Also received our second herd of worms.  They are busy, busy, busy eating our veggie scraps and making compost gold.  They are all looking fat and happy.  Won't be long before we'll have to sort the bins and take out some compost to make room for more food and worms.

We're planning to go to our first bee keepers meeting at the Williamson County Bee Keepers Association this week.  Conveniently, it's right down the street from our house.

Until next time...worms still rule.



Copyright © 2011. All rights reserved.

Monday, September 19, 2011

It's official!!

Well, it FINALLY happened!  We are land owners!  Yes, that's right, we actually own a little piece of Texas!  Yahooooo!  Okay, sorry, I know that's a lot of exclamation points...won't be the first time I've been accused of over using them.  But I like them...a lot!

We kept this attempt to buy anything on the complete DL because we've had so many things fall apart this past year.  But finally, something went our way and we got a loan from a local bank - thank you Frontier Bank of Texas - for the 10 acre property that we fell in love with in Coupland, Texas. 

We have our work cut out for us.  Of course everything is bone dry right now.  Our little tank is dry too.  And the fence lines need cleaning up and some fence mended here and there.  But it's ours, all ours!  And this isn't just a one weekend project...this is a continually evolving life project.  We hope to move out there in the next year or two. We may start with a temporary house while we plan to build our own.  So many options, it can be overwhelming.  But now that we can spend our weekends out there working, we can do some bonafide site planning and get it all figured out.

We already have "Bee Hollow" staked out.  Back in these trees.










Underneath this big boy.












Here's the view across the road from our future front porch:














And another shot looking across the pasture.















So the adventure begins.  We will continue to homestead in our urban setting while we prep our land to be our final address.  We are absolutely loving the products of our labors from making jam! 

I'm getting ready to plant some beets and green onions in our garden for fall.  The tomatoes are getting their first blooms now that the oppressive heat seems to be mostly behind us.  The 9 foot acorn squash vine still only has one squash, but we'll take it.

Oh, and by the way, worms still rule.

Until next time.

Copyright © 2011. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Where does the time go?

Gee whiz!  How on earth has it been two weeks since I've posted?  And with nothing big or exciting to report.  What's up with that?

The raspberry jam has been a huge hit with everyone who has tried it.  YAY!

The worms are doing well and working quickly to turn all the scraps we can give them into garden gold.   We have another batch on the way this week.  Hubby says he's going to have to build a new bin or add on already.  Worms are so awesome!

I knitted my very first scarf using a loom this weekend.  It's so pretty and slated to be a Christmas gift...young girls can't have too many scarves, can they?  Hopefully it'll be loved just because it was made with so much love (and excitement at creating something with a newly learned craft skill!).  The only problem is I don't know how to finish it off (I think that's called "casting off") so that it doesn't unravel!!  Surely there are some easy to understand instructions out there...I hope...It won't be nearly as pretty to wear with the loom still attached.  :D

Hopefully more to report very soon.  Until then...worms rule.

Copyright © 2011. All rights reserved.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Jammin'

The dynamic duo jam makers struck again this weekend!  We were at Costco (my happy place!) on Sunday and I wanted some raspberries.  My wonderful hubby said "Why don't we buy a whole flat and make some raspberry jam?"  Well, all right!  So we did.

We personally don't mind the seeds in raspberry jam.  That being considered, this was by far the easiest and quickest batch of jam we've made to date because there wasn't anything that required pitting or peeling prior to getting down to the business of cooking.  We continue to use the low sugar recipes (and pectin) and just cannot imagine using three more cups of sugar in these jams!  They come out pretty sweet as it is, but you still really get the full essence of the fresh fruit without that extra sugar.  Just seems like the full sugar versions would just taste like nothing but sugar.

We ended up with 18 half pint jars from six 12 oz containers of raspberries.

We started with this:










And ended with this:










This isn't all the jars of course.  Now we're going to have to come up with a place to store all these wonderful jars of goodness!

We also had fresh baby yellow and zucchini squashes from the garden with dinner last night.  They were FAB!

To end a very productive day, we made brownies...and smeared some fresh raspberry jam on top.  I think I've died and gone to heaven...warm gooey chocolate and fresh raspberries are one of the most perfect combinations!

And last, but not least, the worms are doing awesome!  They are really digging (pardon the pun!) their new home.

Until next time - worms rule.

Copyright © 2011. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Proudsquash mom

So remember the little acorn squash I mentioned last week?  She is over 6 feet long now and continues to add new leaves.  There are a few blossom buds, so I had hopes that we may have a squash yet.

Well look what I found last night!!!


Grow, baby, grow!!  I'm such a proud squash mom!  :)

Until next time...worms still rule.

Monday, August 22, 2011

More jam!

We got adventurous this weekend and made some plum jam!  Black plums were on sale at the grocery store, so we thought, why not try making some plum jam?
It was a little trickier than the peach jam we made.  It wasn't setting up as easily, but I had read up on what to do if your jam was not passing the "jell test".  So twice we added some supplemental pectin and cooked it another minute.  And finally, it was "jelling" appropriately.  I'm glad our first try at jam with the peaches went so smoothly...it's good for things to go exactly like they're supposed to the first time you do something new!  But this was also a good experience for learning how to make adjustments, which must be done on the fly, and still come out with a satisfactory end product.  We ended up with 7 half pint jars out of about 3 1/2 pounds of plums.

The jam came out just fine and dandy.  It's nice and sweet, and we used the lower sugar recipe.  Neither my wonderful hubby or I can imagine using the full sugar recipes...seems like you would totally overpower the goodness of the fruit with sugar.  Makes my teeth hurt thinking about it!

The worms are doing well...I know you were dying to know, but too shy to ask.  They have been happily munching away on all our produce scraps.  We're starting to get a good build up of castings...black gold!  My hubby turned the organic matter in the worm condo and it was warm in there, letting us know everything is working as it should. 

In the Little Garden That Could, we have picked close to a dozen baby yellow squashes.  Can't wait to eat them.  I started picking some of the beans that grew about an 3/4 of an inch long and then just stopped.  The bean plants are doing all they can to stay alive in this oppressive heat.  I'm picking the mini beans for the worms.  Maybe, if it EVER cools down below 100 and I get this whole stunted batch off of the plants, they might have a chance to make one more round that we can eat before they're done.

We still dream of having our own little homestead.  It's fun to talk about all the things we'd like to do with a small parcel of land.  With all the uncertainty in the world, it's fun and gives us hope to dream about something positive!  We look forward to being more self-sufficient and able to produce at least some of our own food.  We'll have a couple of chickens and a greenhouse.  We will plant some fruit trees and we'll have bees.  Someday.  It won't be easy.  But it'll be worth all the work.  I read in a homesteading book once (I wish I could rememer which one, I've read through so many) that although some people may look at growing your own food and living off the land as a lower standard of living, he considers being more self-sufficient a higher standard of living because you create your own food from your own soil with your own two hands.  You know exactly where your food comes from.  I consider it a higher standard to living too!

Well, until next time...worms still rule.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Nothing much

Well, nothing really newsworthy to write about...stop snickering...my blogs may not be newsworthy to everyone, but I do try to keep it interesting.

Work has been busy - nothing like new software upgrades to drive you crazy.  Why do software companies put out "new and improved" versions of their software that actually take more work (they really do require more steps) to do the same old basic functions?  How is making something more work better???

The Little Garden That Could is alive, but that's about it.  This unbearable heat and drought is just keeping it from being able to produce anything.  My acorn squash puts on new leaves every day though!  I don't know if she'll ever produce an actual squash, but she's running about four feet out into the yard now.

Trying hard to keep up with my exercise.  It's rather discouraging, because after at least six weeks of walking at least three times a week (as opposed to doing nothing prior to that), I'm not seeing any results.  I don't have more energy, I'm not less tired and I haven't lost an ounce.

Just found out a friend back in Colorado was diagnosed with Lymphoma.  It almost doesn't seem real.  She's one of the kindest, sweetest, most gentle souls I've ever met on this earth.  Why do things like this happen???

I'm itching to make some jam/jelly.  Don't have much access to fresh fruit (other than the grocery store) for jam.  Maybe I'll try making some jelly from some really good fruit juice...

Oh, almost forgot a worm update.  I know, I know.  You would've been crushed had I forgotten.  My wonderful hubby built an new worm bin that has a little larger bins and I think we're gonna need them.  They seem to be settling in and really doing their thing.  We talk to them every day.  We don't know what our losses were from the shipping nightmare, but the herd we have is settling in and going strong.  It's so interesting to learn about them again and how different it is to manage them in a different climate.  I mean, they are inside, so it's climate controlled.  But even indoors the heat and humidity are much different here than in Colorado and it just requires different adjustments to keep their environment optimal.  Meanwhile, hubby continues to record changes he'll make to future worm bins so that they are optimal housing units.  Ever been interested in vermicomposting?  Order a fabulous custom worm bin from us and we'll help you get started!  It's the ultimate recycling and leads right into organic gardening.

Until next time, worms rule.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Writing practice

I've always had a strong desire to write.  My wonderful hubby thinks I should, as voracious a reader as I am.

In searching for ideas/prompts, I ran across this one today:  pick a place and write about daybreak in that specific location, inventing any pertinent details.

So I imagined myself living on the piece of land we would love to live on more than anything and wrote the two descriptive paragraphs below.  It's not much, but it's a start.   And I can see and feel myself there.

******

The sun is almost ready to peek over the horizon.  I’ve already been to the barn and finished feeding the chickens and goats.  Dogs and cats at the house are next.  But first I step out onto the porch with my cup of coffee, ready to welcome the first liquid rays of sunlight.  It’s the first frosty morning of the year. My flannel work shirt is cozy and I wrap my hands around my mug and watch the rising steam sail up from my much needed caffeine fix.

Finally, like a huge glowing ball of orange honey, the sun starts to show itself - almost shy at first, and then quite proud.  The whole countryside, as far as I can see takes on the orange-pink glow of that first morning light.  It shimmers across the leaves of the pecan trees in the orchard across the road, making them look like a stage full of golden dancers.  The rooster next door starts to crow as my little corner of the world comes alive once more.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Parents again! Worm parents that is...

Well, it's been entirely too long since my last post...just struggling through this game we call life and figuring out how to survive it...won't be unscathed, but hopefully the scars aren't too ugly.  :)

We are finally worm (Eisenia fetida, aka red wigglers) parents again!  I know there are very few out there that can appreciate that.  But we're excited, and if you have any compassion for others at all, you should be excited that we're excited, even if worms don't do anything for you personally.  (Well, they do have something to do with almost everything you eat, but don't usually get any credit, kind of like our bee friends.)  They are truly amazing though.  Vermicomposting is awesome!

As I mentioned before, my wonderful hubby built an awesome new worm condo.  (And he's already plotting improvements for his next model.) The new "herd" will be excited to get settled in such high class digs once they get over the shock of their journey to their new family. 











OMG, let me tell you, I can understand why the US Postal Service is $3.8 billion in the hole!  We knew this package was coming via priority mail.  I tried calling the local post office over the course of 4 days and no one EVER answered the phone.  I wanted to give them a heads up that we were expecting a "live, perishable" package, and if need be, make arrangements to pick it up.  I work during the exact hours they are open, so I can't just drop by in person to chat with them.  Then, on the day it's due to arrive, and hadn't yet by early afternoon, my hubby decides he had better go check the mail kiosk.  Lo and behold, there's the package, CRUSHED, with a huge red and white "LIVE PERISHABLE" sticker across it, stuffed into one of those package lockers while it's 104 degrees outside!!!  How big of an incompetent boob do you have to be to handle that clearly marked package like that?!

He opened the box up and the media they were shipped in (a peat moss mix) was completed dried out, as were many of the worms.  He got them into their new condo that was already full of kitchen scraps for them and started trying to rehydrate them.  FOUR cups of water later, some of them are starting to move around.  We have no idea what percentage was lost, but we do have some still alive.  And if our efforts in Colorado are any indication, this new herd will be going strong very soon. (But that does NOT excuse the incompetence of the postal service.)

I'd take a picture of the new kids, but all you'd really be able to see are vegetable scraps and soil.  They're not really the camera hound divas you might think.

Well, that's all I have for now.  I'll keep you updated on the herd's progress.

Until next time...worms rule!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Preserving your own food

There is something inherently satisfying about preserving your own food.  The ultimate would be to preserve food that you grew yourself, but we're not there...yet.

We ventured down to the Farmer's Market in downtown Austin on Saturday and bought a half bushel of fresh peaches.  Saturday evening we prepped them:  removed the skins and pits and cut them up.  Some were prepped for jam and some for just canned peaches.  We had to dig out the canning pots and supplies, but at least everything is under one roof these days!  And we got the propane two burner cooker set up under a new canopy on the back porch.  That canopy is a life saver from the scorching sun!  It was still hot, but without the sun roasting your skin and top of your head, and with a little breeze, it's survivable.  The advantage to this set up that you don't heat up the whole house boiling a huge kettle of water while canning.

And you'll be SO excited...I actually have pictures this time!!  We ended up with 12 half pint jars of jam and 11 pints of peaches.  Yay!

We started out with this lovely 25 lb box of peaches.









Here's the prepping in progress.










Prep done - ready to be made into jam and jars of peaches.










Here's our "supervisor" in the lid to peach box, keeping a close eye on our work.










Jars of jam going into the canner.










Finished jars of peaches and jam.










Peach cobbler for dessert!










"Supervisor" guarded the finished product all afternoon and evening.










We also have some progress towards being able to vermicompost again!  (aka have worms eat your kitchen scraps)   Check out the awesome three tiered worm bin my wonderful hubby built!  It's that beautiful?    We had worms in Colorado and because of the sometimes frigid temps, they lived right in the house.  They were in a corner of the living room and no one ever even knew they were there.  Here in Texas, they need to be indoors because of the extreme heat - especially right now as we hit day 40 of 100+ degrees this summer.  Ack!   If you maintain your vermicomposting bin properly, there is absolutely no odor or anything.  They are really quiet "pets".  They are not demanding, don't need to go for walks, don't need to go out to potty, don't need to be brushed, are very easy to maintain and simply amazing little critters. 










Now we just need some worms!

Oh! And we harvested two zucchinis and one yellow squash this weekend from the Little Garden That Could!  The beans are progressing nicely too.  We thought we had lost our two acorn squash plants.  They were doing well after transplanting and then suddenly cratered.  But they have a lot of "want to" because they are sending out new little runners and leaves and one of them is even full of little budding blossoms.  The pepper plants are taking their time, but they are getting taller and stronger every day.  The basil is just flat out of control!  It's a thing of beauty.  That has to be the happiest plant in the garden.

Well that's all from our little urban homestead.  Very productive and satisfying weekend.  Have you ever tried your hand at preserving your own food?

Until next time

Monday, July 18, 2011

I think I could be famous for that...

Whew!  It was a busy weekend in the kitchen on Sunday on our little urban homestead.  We started off Sunday morning with stuffed french toast with my homemade blueberry sauce.  Hadn't made either one in a while.  I think I almost drooled in the blueberry sauce as it cooked (but I DIDN'T!).  It smells SO heavenly when it's cooking.  I really think I could be famous for that breakfast...if not the blueberry sauce alone.

A co-worker had some peaches that needed to be put up, so I took them home and prepped them for the freezer for her.  I have a couple of cups for us in the fridge - I even made peach pie "dumplings" last night for dessert.  My wonderful hubby is not a big fruit eater at all, but even he ate them.  Guess there was enough pie dough surrounding the fruit to help disguise it.  :)

I also tried a new chicken recipe and made a lemony chicken piccata over angel hair pasta with spinach on the side.  Not bad for my first try.

In the Little Garden That Could some of the squash plants are struggling.  One of the zucchinis just about completely cratered, but it is hanging in there and making a come back.  Really weird, cuz the other two right beside it are fine.  The acorn squash are having a hard time too, but hanging in there.  We'll see how it goes. It's so blasted hot out this year with no rain.  There is a beautiful zucchini on one of the plants that will be ready in just a day or two.  And the yellow squash have quite a few that will be ready in about a week.  This weekend we bought some ground oyster shell for them to give them a little bit of a calcium boost.  At Tractor Supply, you could buy a cute little 2 lb package for $6 or the 50 lb, not so cute paper bag that looks like a sac of concrete for $10.  Hmmm.  You do the math!  Too bad we don't have any chickens to give that to...

The beans have been completely covered in blossoms for about a week.  I kept asking them when the beans were coming - after all, that's what the blossoms are supposed to be doing.  And yesterday we spotted bunches and bunches of little baby beans.  They are the cutest things you've ever seen.

Started thinking about Christmas this weekend.  We went to Joann's and Michaels.  I've been dying to do something creative.  I was so adventurous that I even braved the "storage room" and moved boxes and dug through the craft boxes (which were of course towards the back and on the bottom!).  We're trying to do as much homemade as possible for Christmas.  And now's the time to get started.  Got some good ideas for our two nieces...but not the for the boys yet.  Why does it seem harder to do homemade for boys?

My hubby has started researching plans for a new worm bin.  We had a pretty nice one that he built in Colorado.  But he's figuring out ways to improve it.  Have you ever priced worm bins on the internet?  Okay, maybe you haven't.  But they are insanely expensive - especially considering how little material actually goes into them.  And worms!  Oh my word.  We should quit using money and start trading in worms.  $35 per pound!  We started off with less than a pound of worms in Colorado and gave away at least 6 lbs a little over a year later when we moved.  We've been trying to compost our kitchen scraps in the garden - don't really have a designated compost pile set up yet.  But there is absolutely nothing like composting your kitchen scraps through a worm bin.  They're great "pets"!  They are very quiet, they require very, very little maintenance.  They eat your garbage.  And they give you rich fertilizer in return.  What else could you want?  They really are amazing little critters.

Sorry, still no pictures.  There's some in the camera...

Until next time.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The squishes are coming, the squishes are coming!

Well the zucchini plants were the first to dig and take off growing big, but in the Little Garden That Could, the yellow squash are still small plants, but coming on strong.  They beat the zucchini to the punch for setting fruit!  One of the yellow squash plants has FOUR baby squishes (our term of endearment) and the other got her first yesterday!  Now the zucchini, not to be completely outdone each have about two squishes and lots of other blossoms.

Unfortunately, I don't have pictures yet...riveting blog that this is...I can feel your disappointment and anticipation. I mean, what better things could you possibly have to do other than wait around for pictures of my vegetable plants??!!

Hey!  We're proud "parents" - and shouldn't we shout that to the world?  For us, there's nothing so satisfying as working with the soil and growing something from the tiniest of seeds.  And even if it doesn't produce enough bounty to fill our cupboards for the coming winter, we will cherish every fresh morsel, cuz it doesn't get any more organic than that. 

We are still in love with that little piece of land in Coupland.  And we still can't find a way to get it financed.  It makes me wonder how our world got so upside down.  There have always been money makers who get rich in our country.  But they created a business or product to achieve that.  What gets me, and really makes me sad for our society's priorities, are the people that reap millions upon millions of dollars a year to entertain us - whether it be with sports or music, tv, movies, etc.   Why don't teachers, fire fighters, police officers, military personnel earn that kind of money instead??!!  They actually have a direct impact on our lives.

We work every day, pay exorbitant amounts of that money earned to taxes for which proportionately speaking, we receive very little services in return, pay our bills and do all the right things.  Yet we can't borrow $60,000 (to be paid back with interest I might add) to buy a little piece of land and start building our retirement home.  We're not asking someone to give it to us.  We just want to borrow it, with interest.

SIGH!

Okay.  I digress.  This started out celebrating and didn't end that way.  Ooops.  Well, it is what it is.  Maybe next time I'll have pictures...

Thursday, July 7, 2011

First harvest!

We had our first harvest from the Little Garden That Could this past weekend!  Two fine looking radishes.









Look at those beauties.  They are hotter than fire though.  The zucchini squash plants are doing the best since we planted everything in the ground.  Those puppies just took off growing and haven't looked back.  The zucchini and acorn squashes have itty bitty blossoms forming.  The yellow squash have been lagging a little behind the others, but we can tell they are growing every day.  The tomatoes are coming on strong too.  They were little bitty tikes when we transplanted them.  And the herbs are totally digging their new location.

We still have to keep an eye on the (furry) kids when they go outside to mill about.  I enjoy being outside with them while they explore the yard, and sometimes the even get their business done. :)  It's very relaxing.  But I also know my children well and the first time we let them out unattended, one, if not both will make a beeline for that garden to dig and sit in the nice cool, soft soil!

We had friends over for dinner this past Sunday.  Our first guests!  We've decided it's good to have company over a month or so after moving - it finally gets you off your duff to unpack and put away all the stuff you've grown accustomed to walking around instead of finding a home for.  Also helps you finally get all your artwork hung on the walls. 

I do have to say that we fixed a fabulous meal - my Mexican food extravaganza!  We started off with chips and a great avocado and tomatillo salsa (from Costco) and homemade jalapeno ranch dip.  Then we had thin cut NY Strip steaks topped with sauteed garlic and onions, green chiles and melted Monterrey Jack cheese, ranch style beans, and made from scratch sweet corn cake.  For dessert we had (unfried) fried ice cream.  It was all wonderful!  (Sorry if that's bragging a little bit.)

Guess that's all from here for now.  We still keep dreaming of our own homestead one day!  There have been many, many trials and tribulations this year.  One thing these tough times do is confirm for my wonderful hubby and me how lucky we are to have each other - we are incredibly compatible partners.  It also makes us anxious to have our own homestead, as life seems to get more uncertain in these troubled times, so that we may be more self-sufficient and have a greater control of where our food comes from.  But also, that dream helps give us hope, something positive to dream about, to plan, to be excited about, to work towards.

Until next time...

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Little Garden That Could

We are going to put "square foot gardening" to the test.  I think I might call our little garden "The Little Garden That Could".  The squash have been growing so quickly, that we decided we had to act this weekend.  We cleared out more space along the house all the way up to the fence at the front of the house.  So far, we planted three zucchini squash (and I swear they've already grown since they were planted!), two acorn squash, three baby girl tomatoes, two early girl tomatoes, and the three herbs that were living in pots on the front walk - the basil, thyme and rosemary.

We went from this (first squash):



and this (beans peeking out):

to these:





























(the thyme isn't really planted that close, but her "hair" all lays to one side, so she's cozying up to the chives)















(rosemary is waiting for her new neighbors - here's where the yellow squash, bell peppers and banana peppers will go)




Yet to be planted are three yellow squash and several bell and banana peppers (next to the rosemary).  We have a few jalapenos to plant too, but they have to be by themselves, so they may go in containers around the corner.  We had bell and jalapeno peppers planted side by side in our garden in Colorado and they cross-pollinated!  Those "sweet" peppers were hotter than fire!!

We've also been exploring companion planting.  We have a book about it, but alas, it is still packed away because we don't have any bookcases yet.   But looking on the internet, we found that tomatoes do well with basil and chives and we have several tomato plants planted near the basil and chives in the "herb section" of the garden.  I read that marigolds (which are good companion plants for lots of veggies) and oregano are good for the squash.  Marjoram is also said to improve the flavor of all veggies.  We do save and dry thyme, basil, rosemary and chives.  We haven't ever really used marjoram as a herb in cooking, but even if we just grow it to bring out the best in our veggies and then turn it under in the winter to add organic material to the soil, it will be really useful.  Turns out, radishes and beans are really great companions - boy that was dumb luck!

On another gardening related note, my hamstrings are zinging!  I didn't even do a fraction of the digging the grass with the pick axe that my wonderful hubby did.  But between that and squatting to plant stuff (my knees don't take kindly to being knelt on, not to mention the bruises that aren't quite gone from my fall on a tile floor at work a week and a half ago), unbeknownst to me, my hamstrings apparently had quite a workout!
(check out the cool moose shorts I stole from my hubby!)

I love the slogan for the National Garden Association:
 "When you garden, you grow" - those are words to live by for hubby and me!

Reflecting back on my last post about life's challenges, and our confusion about where we are supposed to be, what we're supposed to do next, where we want to settle, a thought popped into my head - which working in the soil tends to do for me - and "bloom where you're planted" came to mind.  My hubby liked that, for there's a lot to be said for that!

Until next time...