Friday, February 23, 2024

Homestead Happenings

Greetings to you from Maple Hill 101!
We have a few things to share this week
about our homestead activities.
This little winter vignette has brought me so much comfort,
with the delicate white lights and the cheery bear on the card.
Several times a day I'll find myself just smiling
when I catch a glimpse of it.

Winter sowing continues, as spring inches closer.
We have had some success with chamomile, dill, kale, leek, 
lettuce, onions and dianthus germinating well.
The beans, parsley and thyme have not done well,
but will be resown in the next week or so.

lots of lettuce!

A large bin of broccoli shoots was harvested
and will no doubt be enjoyed all weekend.

The cabbage is finally started to head.
I can't wait to sample this homegrown newbie!

These chives decided to come back to life
after looking mighty bad most of the winter.
Bring on the potato salad!

The sweet potato slips have been started.

These were homegrown sweet potatoes
that were saved from our fall harvest.
Matchsticks were used in place of toothpicks
(we don't buy those) to suspend the spuds in the cans.
In a few weeks, we should have slips!

Last time I mentioned this heritage flour
from Sunrise Flour Mill in Minnesota.
A friend recommended it to me,
as she knows I have issues with gluten sensitivity.

I'm happy to report that not only was the bread de-lish,
there was absolutely no reaction to my skin
after devouring the entire loaf myself!
Dinner rolls or challah bread will be tried next.

The new chook run has been started.
It came in one ginormous box that weighed a ton.
Fortunately, the assembly was fairly easy,
especially since Big K was there to help.

We are awaiting the hardware cloth to be delivered,
so that we can finish it up.  The outer fence will be taken down,
and used underneath the perimeter of the new run,
to act as a predator deterrent.
We'll also have some sort of stone all along the outside
to keep trouble makers at bay.
We hope to complete the build by next weekend.
This will allow me to commence working on the new design
of the garden, which is to the left of the run.
Things need to be rearranged, but the run has to be finished first. 

We lost our beloved Ruby last week.
She was such a sweet and gentle soul.
We think the culprit was water belly,
of which I knew very little.
Unfortunately, it is a condition that has no cure.
We miss you dearly, sweet girl,
but know that we'll see you again someday.

I hope you'll share what's happening on your homestead.

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

A Twist on Gratitude



step forward,
joyful sprouted seedling,
morning of stillness,
noontime church bell ringing clearly,
soothing cup of tea,


Your turn...

Friday, February 9, 2024

Homestead Happenings


Winter sowing is under way!
As you can see, the butter crunch lettuce is coming up.
It’s amazing to me how well this method works.
When the seeds are ready, they germinate,
and since they are already outside,
there is no need for hardening off the plants.
Read more about Winter Sowing here.

These potatoes had been saved from our last harvest 
and placed in a paper sack in my closet for safe keeping.
As you may be able to tell, they want to grow.
Far be it for me to stand in the way!

 Three planting rings were created using chicken wire.
These rings had been used a couple of years ago for growing potatoes.
I decided to use this method again,
since these needed to be planted quickly.
Another batch of spuds will be planted in a few weeks
using the Ruth Stout method of growing in straw.

A few buckets of homemade compost
await behind the shed for use later in the season.
It’s wonderful having a space for all of the garden materials.

This handy-dandy sled helps me get loads delivered,
while saving my back from heavy lifting.
A piece of baling twine was strung through two holes drilled into the end of this bin,
which was given to me by a neighbor.
A scrap section of old hose makes a great handle.
This simple tool gets used all the time,
and makes moving things around so much easier.
I am reluctant to ask for help,
so this little set up works well for me.

The (repurposed) bags filled with shredded leaves
finally made it to the back of the property.
In the fall, we used our backpack shredder
to tidy up both our yard, and our neighbors'.
It seems there were more dropped leaves 
than usual last year.
Did you experience that as well?
The bounty will be used in the garden as mulch,
to keep the soil covered.

It’s early February, but the daffodils are already showing signs of awakening.
Several neighbors have actual blooms already.
Unless we get blasted with a late freeze,
We should be having an early colorful spring!

Sedums have become one of my favorite plants.
They are coming back after a somewhat fickle winter.
The constant shift in temperatures didn’t seem to affect them one bit.
I see a few more in my future.

Chilly temperatures kept me inside one morning last week,
so I took the opportunity to clean and sharpen my favorite pruners.
These get used almost daily, 
and it was worth the trouble to dismantle them and give them a thorough scrub.
Here’s a video on the process.

On most rainy days, you’ll find me in the kitchen baking.
I’m not sure what it is about the inclement weather,
but it encourages me to create comforting foods.
These gf pecan sandies got tweaked by the addition of chocolate chips.
My favorite chocolate brand, Hu, is the cleanest sweet treat I’ve found.
Read more here.

The same sugar free chips were used in these
pumpkin muffins.
I usually make these in the fall,
but somehow didn’t get around to it last season.
Ah well, my tummy is none the wiser.
You can find both of these recipes underneath my header
listed as “Scratch Recipes “ or “Allergy-Friendly Recipes “.
(The pumpkin muffin recipe was made gluten free
by subbing out the white flour with a combination of oat and almond flours.)

A friend shared with me this milled flour,
made from ancient grains.
I've learned over the past year or so,
that my eczema is aggravated by gluten,
so I've mostly avoided it.
The transition to gf products has not been diffiicult,
as I've been cooking and baking that way for years for my boy.
This flour is tolerated by some who have a 
gluten sensitivity, so I thought I would give it a go.
This upcoming rainy weekend may find me baking homemade bread to enjoy.
Fingers crossed.

What's happening on your homestead?

Friday, January 26, 2024

Homestead Happenings

We're experiencing a true (for us) winter
here in the Piedmont of North Carolina, 
minus the snow.
We've been living here for just over 7 years,
and this is the coldest temperature we have had thus far.
Thankfully, the extreme chilliness only lasted for a few days,
and our averages are again ranging in the 40's to 60's.
So grateful for our toasty fireplace!

Most of the brassicas did well with an extra layer of protection.
The additional row cover saved most of the broccoli,
kale, and even lettuce plants.
The cauliflower was not so fortunate.
The leaves can still be shared with the chooks.

A few of the broccoli heads were harvested before the coldest weather,
even though they were not full-sized.
Oh, my, they didn't disappoint.
It was the tastiest broccoli I think I've ever eaten.
The remaining crops will offer side shoots for future picking.

Winter sowing has begun!
Time spent indoors allowed me to work on
the crops I want to grow for this spring.
The focus for this season is on crops I eat regularly.
The basics are carrots, kale, onions, potatoes,
and a handful of herbs.

Several containers were sown using the winter sowing method.
You can read about that here.
The bins remain outside placed in the asparagus bed,
and will be watered only when necessary.
Fortunately, we've had a long stretch of rain visit the garden,
so these should be quite content.
As the weather allows, more seeds will be started.

Betty actually spent some time inside.
We used our closet-sized room 
off the master bathroom to nurse her.
She has been limping for a while,
although I can find no sign of problems with her feet or legs.
She stayed warm, dry and bully-free for a week.
She's walking better and is back outside.

Several of the mailboxes in our cul-de-sac have been destroyed.
For some reason, over the course of a week,
someone found it necessary to
knock them over, run into them or
somehow make them unusable.
We ended up replacing the post with a metal one
and replaced the box on top.

These were originally purchased at the library bookshop.
I am looking for a local "free library",
(the kind where folks can give and take books)
so that they can be donated.
With the book banning going on these days,
it makes it a bit more difficult to find the right spot.
Hopefully, others will get to enjoy these.

The blueberries are waking up!
I spied buds on the branches about a week ago,
and despite the neglect over the summer,
(I didn't water them much),
and their poor placement in the garden,
they still keep working toward a harvest.

A few of the blueberry crops were stretching to reach the sun,
so the pots have been moved to the outside of the chook run.
I'm hoping they will get a better distribution of sunshine here.
The plan was to put them in the ground this year
and hope for the best.  I have thus far not had a great harvest from the plants,
but I am still tweaking the soil to get the right balance of acidity.
Maybe the proximity to the chooks and their fertilizer will help.

The cold is part of winter,
and we are so glad to be living with the seasons.
It does require me to alter my day-to-day a bit.
One thing I enjoy doing in the heat of summer
and in the cold of winter is jigsaw puzzles.
Almost done with this beauty!

I usually go for a 1-mile walk through the neighborhood
at least four days a week.
With the rain and cold, that's not possible,
so I have found a great resource for walking inside.
It's called "Walk at Home", and it can be found on YouTube.
Each day I can pick from a number of videos to complete my walk for the day.
In fact, I've been enjoying them so much,
that I have increased my walk inside to 2 miles.
If you need an alternative or just want to get started
taking better care of yourself,
this is an easy way to do something for you.
Even better, have family or friends join in!
Here's the link.

What's happening on your homestead?

Friday, January 19, 2024

Winter Sowing Method

What does the gardener do after the flurry of holiday activities is over and the long wait until spring planting begins?  What if you have no room for indoor grow lights or outdoor space for a greenhouse?  Have no fear, winter sowing will help you scratch that itch to get busy playing in the dirt. It is a simple way to get a headstart on the spring garden and one of the easiest methods of seed starting.

Materials needed:
Any clear (or light-colored) plastic container with a lid
-(Juice or milk jugs, kale or salad clamshell containers, etc.)
Compost or potting soil of your choice
Drill, scissors, or nail & hammer (for drilling holes)
Garden marker
Water or spray bottle

Winter sowing begins with preparing the containers used for growing.  Drainage holes need to be made in the bottom of the container, but also in the top of the container to allow rain or snow to keep the soil moist.  Since the containers are kept outside all winter, they are able to drink up any precipitation. This also allows the gardener to water without removing the lid, should supplemental moisture be needed.  Keeping the interior as warm and humid as possible is vital.

After ample holes are created, it is time to add 2-3 inches of your choice of soil.  The vessels will hold the seedlings for just a short time, and so a small amount of soil should be adequate.  Moisten the soil before adding the seeds.

Add the seeds of your choice to moistened soil, adding enough soil on top just to cover, without worrying too much about planting space. These seedlings will be transplanted into the larger garden within weeks, and can tolerate a bit of crowding in the winter sowing containers.  The best types of seeds to use for this method of sowing are beets, broccoli, cabbage, greens (arugala, kale, lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard), leeks, onions, and a whole host of flowers.
Again, moisten the soil, place the lid on the container, write the name of the crop on the outside of the container and place it somewhere out in the garden in a sunny spot.  That's it!  No need to baby the seedlings.  Things will germinate when it is their time to do so.  Watering is usually unnecessary, unless there is no precipitation for a long stretch.  The humidity and warmth created inside the containers will help the seeds do what they do best at the right time.

Once the seedlings germinate, they can be transplanted to garden beds, grow bags,  5-gallon buckets, or garden plots, whatever you grow your veggies in.  You needn't wait until all of the seedlings come up, they can be transferred a few at a time, as long as the soil and ambiant temperatures are appropriate for the particular crop.  Once they get transplanted, it won't be long until you start enjoying food from the garden.
The only crops that may not love this method are those that don't like to be moved, such as beans, carrots, peas or some fussier flowers like poppies or snapdragons.

Some of the advantages of winter sowing:
1.  inexpensive
2.  eco-friendly
3.  fairly hands-off (after initial planting)
4.  no need to harden plants off
5.  space requirement is small
6.  uses everyday items (that can be reused from year to year)
7.  earlier transplanting means earlier harvests 

I hope you'll give this method a try.  
It's a very rewarding way to garden, especially when you are ready to 
get out there and plant!