It’s been awhile since I’ve had time to write down what’s been going on around here. I figured I’d better type up a 2019 mid-year, homestead update before I forget!
We’ve been staying very busy so far this summer. This past week was the most “summery” we’ve had all year, and even though it was busy, it was probably the most relaxing week I’ve had in awhile. The four older kids had vacation bible school Monday through Friday, and for 2.5 hours each day, I only had 2 kids to take care of. It was so quiet! I love having the kids around, but I really, really needed that break. Tuesday we went to the beach with some friends, Wednesday we hosted rocket club in the evening, Thursday we went to the park with friends, and Friday night I took the night off to spend with my sisters.
July has (surprise, surprise) flown by in a blur. I know we stay busy because of homeschooling and homesteading, but I still can’t comprehend how time has gone into warp speed since Baby Cheeks was born. He’s 5 months old already! He smiles a lot, mostly sleeps through the night, LOVES bouncing, can get up on his hands and knees, rolls over both ways, giggles, babbles, eats his toes, sucks his thumb, and he ate solids for the first time this past week. Daddy is his favorite person, but he adores his siblings, and only Mommy can stop his crying instantly.
July was an exceptionally busy month, however. We had a game night with some of Scott’s friends from work, hosted our annual Independence Day party, then immediately left on a road trip. When we got back, I had a week to get our home and yard back in order, and then we held Miss Lady’s Annual Tea Party, which was immediately followed by a week of VBS. We’ll plan better next year, because it was more intense than we intended! Good, but intense.
Seeing as it’s summer, the gardens are growing well, and so are the weeds. I’ve weeded roughly half of the large garden and absolutely have to finish weeding it this next week if I don’t want the weeds to be able to go to seed. The kids have spent the week searching for peas to pick, and the zucchini are just beginning to be harvestable. In the process of weeding, I accidentally pulled a couple of smaller carrots and onions out that I’ll be putting into a veggie dish for dinner one of these days.
The kitchen garden is doing great! We’ve been harvesting spinach and lettuce, and the purple carrots are just about ready to harvest. I planted “a lot” of garlic this year, but next year I think I need to quadruple that amount. The sage I planted is doing fantastically well, but I planted way more than I needed. My basil never came up, and one of my lavender plants ended up dying. Oh, and only one of my parsley plants took off, but that should take off once I prune it. I am so glad I put a kitchen garden in this year!
The kids’ gardens are doing pretty well, too. We weeded all of the gardens prior to the tea party, and the kids are getting excited about all of the food that they have growing this year. The pumpkin plants that volunteered by the produce stand are looking great, though I should have dug up and transplanted at least half of them a few weeks ago. Now I’m just going to let them do their thing and see what happens. I made the awning for the produce stand, but have yet to be able to get it installed, which is okay. I really do want to be able to put it up when I have a little extra produce to sell, which really could be any day now. Mostly peas and zucchini, but still… it’s something! (Yes, I’m squealing with excitement in my head!)
I’m over-the-moon excited about all of the perennial food crops this year! The mulberry trees have just been loaded, the black raspberries multiplied significantly, our strawberries gave us a great harvest, and you should see all of the apples on the trees! So far, the kids have mostly been eating the fruit. We made a mulberry pie which was met with mixed reviews. I thought it was good, but something I’d only want to eat one slice of, and that’s pretty much what the rest of the family said as well. But the kids were very happy that I got around to making a batch of mulberry jam. We gave a few jars to family and friends, and I still have a few, but I’m hoping to shake down the trees one more time and make another batch of jam yet.
Some of our friends brought a big container of blueberries over to us about a week ago, and after the kids finished helping themselves, I made a batch of blueberry jam for the first time ever. Some of the kids picked currents with their grandma recently, and we just finished making juice with that in order to make current jelly, another favorite with the kids. They eat a lot of PB&J
Our apple trees are doing really well right now. Not just the old trees, but our grafts as well. We planted multiple of last year’s grafts awhile ago, and a deer started to nibble on them, so I put a temporary plastic cage around them to keep them from being devoured completely. We’ve seen our share of deer devastation already. This year’s grafts are taking off, and we’ve started putting sawdust around the root stock we are propagating. The old trees seem to have recovered nicely from their fire injuries from last spring. Scott sprayed the trees with Neem Oil a few times, and the fruit looks amazing right now. I’ll admit, I’m really holding my breath and praying for a good harvest! If it all goes well, we will have applesauce, apple pies, apple butter, apple cider, and I think some storing apples!
In June, I moved all of the wood chips from our pile to make some beds for berries out in The Pie Field. (I promise, there is a post coming on that soon!) I picked up some strawberry and raspberry plants from the store, and then propagated some of our black raspberry plants as well. I’m hoping that everything takes well and in the next couple of years we have some lush berry beds! I planted three mulberry trees in the field last summer, and Scott accidentally mowed two of them down. They’ve recovered though, thankfully! It’s going to take me a few years (I suspect) to fill in the rest of the pie slice, but here’s praying!
The chickens and ducks are doing well, as is Poppy. Poppy isn’t totally loving the heat, but she hangs out in the shade and when she runs around, she always finds the stream and splashes around for fun. The chickens and ducks are all in the chicken tractors right now, and that’s been nice… Nobody has been running around the yard (they have stopped pooping on EVERYTHING), and it’s easier to take care of them. We weren’t satisfied with the job the kids were doing with some of the animal chores, so I’ve taken that back over, but I’m still having them be involved. Yesterday we discussed what it means to farm and how if they want to ever have animals like a cow or sheep, they’ve got to take their jobs much more seriously.
Scott recently finished cutting the remainder of the roof off of the chicken coop! Since we have a lot of bills to pay off right now, we’ll invest some money into shoring the building up for the winter months, but we won’t do all of the repairs this year. Next year (God willing) we can finish it up. I still don’t know what we’ll end up doing for a winter coop solution this year. I’ve got some things I would like to do, but we’ll have to see how things go and what we can scrap together.
We kept our 4th of July party and Miss Lady’s Tea Party more low-key this year. I still wanted to host both, but with Baby Cheeks, it had to be simple. Our road trip was one we’ve been wanting to take for a few years now. We went down to the Creation Museum and Ark Encounter in Kentucky, and we got to take the S.S. Badger across Lake Michigan. What were the kids’ favorite parts? The pools in the hotels, of course! And the car ferry. But they loved it all.
Keeping up with the housework was a struggle over the last month or two. Spending so much time outside made it difficult to stay on task inside, and the kids have been even less enthusiastic about chores than usual. Though VBS was a blessing for me in that I was able to do some cleaning and yard work without having my work undermined. We’re getting back on track, and now I just need to figure out how to keep the kitchen clean as we begin processing food for the year!
We’ve been doing some school work, though there was less of it this last month.. just sneaking in a few minutes here and there. We’re still reading through a botany book and a book on saints. We recently finished a book on ancient history, and now we’re moving on to A.D. history. We have a few projects we’ve been wanting to do all summer, and August will definitely be the month to do that.
On Friday, I went through all of my clothing and was finally able to get rid of the maternity clothes in my closet! I’ve been working on losing weight, but it’s a slow process since I’m trying to keep my nursing supply up at the same time. I’ve got a long way to go, but I’m happy to see the scale moving in the right direction. I took up running again about two months ago! It’s been a really long time since I’ve been able to do that regularly. I ran a bit two summers ago, but I was sick and didn’t do it often. Last summer I was unable to, and prior to that, I hadn’t done any running since the summer we moved here (but pre-move, so about 4 years ago). I’m up to 4 miles and will be putting in a 5 mile run later today. I signed up for my first race since high school. August 3rd… 5 miles! I really don’t care how well I do, just so long as I can run the whole thing!
I recently realized that I stopped using much of the food that we put up last year around the time we had the baby. We relied on meals from others for quite some time, and that was a huge blessing. I did a little cooking after we ran out of meals, but then we reverted to a lot of “easy” foods like frozen pizza and Kraft mac and cheese. Since we are just beginning to harvest again, I’ve been making a point to use up as much of the food on the shelves as possible. It’s easier on the grocery budget, tastes better, and it’s really easy to throw a meal together. Maybe not as fast as sticking a frozen pizza in the oven, but still… We’ve got a decent amount of green beans left right now. Typically, we’d eat them regularly, but we’ll be harvesting more in the next two weeks, so I think I’ll puree most of the rest of them and use them to feed Baby Cheeks. And I’m pretty darn excited about that idea!
It’s been nice to feel like life is regaining a sense of normalcy. Baby Cheeks is finally taking pretty consistent naps, and that makes life so much easier for me. We’re working everybody back into a routine again, and that’s helping to keep the house a little cleaner and me a little saner. And I can’t believe how normal and good it feels to have harvesting food be a part of our normal. It’s a really good normal!
Well, I hope to get some more posts up soon about our goings on, but I’m not about to promise anything! First we have to finish getting back into our routine. (School work, chores, clean house, happy Mom… garden work, animal care… ) But I hope to be able to check in soon with some of our projects. It feels so good to see things taking shape around here! The thing that currently has me most excited is the produce stand. What project or activity has you most excited this summer?